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Agorapobia is, in short, a fear of public places. While this is an actual diagnosis that falls in the category of panic disorders, new moms may encounter a sudden phobia of going out.

Do you feel like it's not safe to take your baby out, and do you find yourself staying in as much as you possibly can? Are you even afraid of taking your baby into your backyard? You may be suffering from new mom agoraphobia. One mom, Ellie, describes how she felt when she took her firstborn baby home after a 48-hour labor followed by an emergency cesarean section:

All of a sudden, even my house seemed huge. I was anxious when other people my friends and relatives came over to see the new baby, and wanted to hold him. I didn't even think about going outside. My baby was born in the winter, but when spring began I didn't even feel safe taking him into my backyard. What if someone would steal my baby? Going shopping wasn't even an option. The thought of taking my baby out in a stroller, where anyone could simply lift him out and steal him away forever was horrifying. The feeling did pass, eventually, but at the time it was a serious problem. Does anyone else recognize this?

The answer is yes. Plenty of new moms feel anxious about taking their baby into the "great outdoors", for a stroll in the park or a quick trip to the grocery store. It may be that they are actually dealing with undiagnosed postpartum depression, and that the agoraphobia is merely a side effect of their depression. Or, their mother instinct may have kicked in with a vengeance and they have convinced themselves that no place is safe. Is that feeling justified? Yes, and no. Not many people are out to steal your baby. Even on the off chance (like, close to zero) that someone did want to run off with your little one, you would probably be very well equipped to deal with that situation. You have a new weapon, your mother instinct, to cope with threats. Other new moms aren't afraid of kidnappers, but of something far smaller germs. To some extent, that fear is justified. But an extreme fear of germs may also point to a problem. Hand sanitizer should basically convince you that your baby is as safe from germs as it can get. Sure, you can avoid public changing tables! Staying inside because of your fear is not going to make things better, and may well do you a great deal of psychological harm. What can you do to cope with new mom agoraphobia? Some suggestions:

  • Go out together with someone you trust completely, like your partner. You will see that the world isn't so much different than it was before you gave birth to your baby, and that you are absolutely capable of keeping your baby safe.
  • Wear your baby in a nice baby carrier, so you are close to her and there is no chance of anyone stealing her.
  • Go out for short walks at least every day. Sunshine is likely to lift your mood up, and kill the anxiety.
  • Do you feel depressed? Crying, not enjoying anything, and being anxious about normal and everyday activities are some of the signs of postpartum depression. See your family doctor. Help is available, whether it is therapy, medication or both.

How did the mom from the story above solve her anxiety issues? Her firstborn is a big 14 year old boy today, and she had several more children afterwards. She never did have another agoraphobia episode after that. Now, Ellie believes that her feelings were the result of all the changes that her life went through when she became a mom. Suddenly, you are responsible for a whole new human and that is a huge responsibility that you have to learn to cope with. She did venture outside eventually, and both she and her son survived that :). You, too, will get through your fear of being in public with your baby!

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