Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Are Panic Attacks Common In Pregnancy

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Tips To Calm Anxiety While Pregnant

Panic Attacks during Pregnancy

While medication is one solution to anxiety disorders, it certainly isnt the only one. In fact, going to therapy sessions with a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor is usually the first and best way to help pinpoint whats causing your anxiety and develop a plan to help you ease your worries or learn relaxation techniques.

The following anxiety-alleviating strategies can help too:

From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

How To Prevent Future Anxiety Attacks

When anxiety attacks are caused by hormonal changes, controlling them is possible but a bit more difficult. You cannot and should not stop these hormonal changes from happening, and that means that when your brain creates these panic attacks as a result of your hormones, its going to continue to do so until your hormones return to normal.

But that doesnt mean that you need to live with anxiety attacks throughout your pregnancy. There are several important things to note:

  • Preventing Recurrence Post-Pregnancy Its important to realize that some people that develop anxiety attacks never lose them, even when they are the result of pregnancy hormonal changes. That is because the fear of an anxiety attack and the experience of an anxiety attack can be severe enough that you increase your risk for triggering them in the future. Dealing with anxiety attacks should always be a priority.
  • Reducing Severity There are strategies that reduce the severity of an anxiety attack even if they do not cure it altogether. The less severe your anxiety attacks, the less theyll affect the quality of your life and the comfort of your pregnancy, and in some cases they may be easier to control.
  • Stress Control Even though anxiety attacks may feel as though they come from nowhere and that your hormonal issues may be solely to blame, the truth is that stress does play a role in triggering your anxiety attacks. Control your stress and anxiety, and your likelihood of experiencing an attack is reduced.

How To Manage Panic Attacks During Pregnancy

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that involves persistent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks occur suddenly, bringing on feelings of fear, anxiety, nervousness, and apprehension. The emotional symptoms of panic attacks are typically experienced along with somatic sensations, such as accelerated heart rate, chest pain, lightheadedness, shaking, trembling, nausea, and numbness or tingling.

Panic disorder sufferers who become pregnant may feel concerned about how pregnancy will affect their symptoms and vice versa. Research studies have been mixed, some finding that panic attacks and anxiety increases during pregnancy. While other studies suggest pregnant women report a reduction in panic and anxiety symptoms.

It is not possible to determine whether your panic attacks and other anxiety-related symptoms will be aggravated during pregnancy. However, there are some steps you can take to help cope with your symptoms during pregnancy and beyond.

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Can You Have A Panic Attack For No Reason

At first look, it might appear that theres no reason for a panic attack. They seem to come out of nowhere suddenly.

However, we know that the body holds onto stress even when the mind isnt thinking about it. A great book on this is The Body Keeps The Score! I highly recommend it. We might not know the reason for our panic attack, but there always is one. Our body knows the reason.

Panic Disorder Increases The Risk Of Adverse Birth Outcomes

Panic Disorder and Pregnancy

Anxiety often results in the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This activation is commonly known as the fight or flight response symptoms may include increased heart rate, shortness of breath, perspiration, chest pain, and nausea or diarrhea. Activation of the fight or flight response is also associated with the activation of numerous other responses in the body, including the production of various stress hormones, including cortisol.

Various studies suggest that stress or anxiety may be associated with adverse birth outcomes, such as preterm birth and small for gestational age infants. Little is known about the effect that specific anxiety disorders may have on birth outcomes.

Approximately 30% of women experience some type of anxiety disorder during their lifetime these disorders tend to cluster during the childbearing years. The lifetime prevalence rate for panic disorder is 2.7% rates ranging between 1.3% and 2.5% have been documented in pregnant and postpartum women.

For the analyses, women with a diagnosis of panic disorder were separated into two groups: those who were treated in the emergency room for a panic attack during pregnancy and those who were not. Other variables that could impact birth outcomes were controlled for.

Christina Psaros, Ph.D.

Recommended Reading: Pristiq Reviews Anxiety

What Should I Do If I Have Anxiety In Pregnancy

Talk to your midwife or doctor if you:

  • feel anxious most of the time for more than two weeks
  • have anxiety that is making you feel physically ill with fast heartbeat, fast breathing, sweating, feeling faint, feeling sick and diarrhoea
  • have a panic attack/s
  • have unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you cant control them.
  • find yourself repeating an action to feel better.
  • are so afraid of giving birth that you dont want to go through with it
  • you are so afraid of blood tests that you avoid having them.

Tell your midwife or GP if you have experienced anxiety before even if you arent feeling anxious right now. The more they know about your mental health history the better they can support you during your pregnancy.

The midwife or doctor wont criticise you or judge you for having these feelings. They know this happens to many pregnant women, and they will focus on finding the right treatment to help you recover.

If you find anxiety difficult to talk about, you could write down how you feel before your appointment or take someone with you for support.

How To Handle Panic Attacks During Pregnancy

If you think you are having a panic attack or attacks during your pregnancy, the first thing you want to do is see a doctor and get a diagnosis and make sure that either you are or are not having panic attacks. One reason to get a diagnosis is that your symptoms might be the result of a physical illness. The other reason you want to start off with a diagnosis is that if you are having panic attacks, you want to treat them.

The “what if” questions about the health of both yourself and your baby are only natural, and are one of the hardest things for a pregnant woman to let go of. If you have had panic attacks before, there can also be a question in the back of your mind how your attacks will affect your baby or about what happens if it’s not a panic attack, and instead something is wrong with your health or the health of your baby.

The best treatment for anxiety in pregnancy is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy . This is the general consensus, and there are two reasons why CBT is the best option:

  • It works.
  • Given that it works, it obviates the need to take medications that have the potential to harm your baby.
  • The basic thrust of CBT is that it helps you understand the connection between the way you think and behave will affect the way you feel. In CBT, the therapist helps the patient identify the distorted thoughts that cause anxiety and panic attacks, and then helps you replace them with more realistic thoughts.

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    Also Check: Can You Go To Urgent Care For Panic Attacks

    New Moms: Feeling Anxious

    Are you pregnant or a new mom? Have you been feeling worried or anxious? If so, this website can help. We are four mothers with a total of eight children between us. Like most mothers, each of us struggled with worries during our pregnancies, and certainly during that roller-coaster first year with a newborn .

    On this page:

    As mental health professionals, we knew about many web-based resources that help women with postpartum depression, but wondered why there werent more resources on how to effectively manage anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period. After all, anxiety and worries are so common during this time.

    We recommend taking it slow and trying one thing at a time for at least a few weeks. Some strategies take repeated practice, and dont really kick in for a little while. You need to find what works for YOU.

    Panic Disorder And Pregnancy

    Pregnancy and Panic | Panic Attack during pregnancy

    For most pregnancy is a time of heightened anxiety and stress. Some even feel that the two go hand in hand the uncertainty of the future, the anticipation of labor, the enormity of the idea of being responsible for another human are all common emotions and feelings associated with the experience. Anxiety in many ways is part of the package of pregnancy and parenthood.

    And if the heightened anxiety wasnt enough, there is also the simultaneous social pressure that can feed your anxiety. What woman hasnt heard comments like you must be so happy or youve got such a wonderful glow about you and not felt any of that?

    Its worth noting that there is such a thing as positive anxiety. Its healthy that you are looking to the future with excitement and thinking about the gravity of becoming a parent. Anxiety becomes a problem when you find yourself feeling anxious all the time-chronic anxiety. If your anxiety is too intense or you feel like its going on too long, it can have a significant impact on your pregnancy. If left unchecked, it can even morph into panic attacks, which can have its own implications.

    Chronic Anxiety Turns to Panic Anxiety

    If youre suffering from anxiety, or worse yet panic attacks while pregnant, its important to know that there is a scientifically validated drug-free treatment that can help you take control of your panic attacks and have a more comfortable pregnancy.

    Its Not Your Fault

    Treatments that Work

    Plan More Time for You

    Also Check: Pristiq For Anxiety

    You Could Also Try A Self

    • Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerley
    • Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Panic: A Five Areas Approach by Chris Williams
    • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers
    • Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia by Derrick Silove and Vijaya Manicavasagar
    • Panic Attacks: What They Are, Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them by Christine Ingram
    • An Introduction to Coping with Phobias by Brenda Hogan

    Limit Your News And Social Media Intake

    For many people, its hard to stay off social media. We want to connect with friends and family, especially since we cant be together in person right now.

    But if the constant stream of political or pandemic news causes you stress, stop scrolling. Instead, watch one scheduled news segment to get a synopsis. You’ll be up to date without going down the rabbit hole of infuriating comments on social media.

    In the same spirit, be mindful of what you can and can’t control. We all feel passionate about certain causes, such as racial equality, saving the environment, and helping the homeless.

    However, none of us is Superwoman you can’t fix everything, but you can focus impactfully on one or two causes. Contributing how you can will give you a sense of satisfaction and control.

    Related reading:Pregnancy and social media

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    What Causes Anxiety Attacks In Pregnant Women

    Every person is different. What makes pregnancy unique is that there are several different issues that may occur when you go through pregnancy that may bring on anxiety attacks:

    • You may have anxiety attacks as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy.
    • You may have anxiety attacks as a result of the stress and worries of pregnancy.
    • You may have already suffered from anxiety attacks and they become worse during pregnancy.
    • You may simply be at an age when developing anxiety attacks is more common.

    Some doctors have found that those that normally have anxiety attacks actually stop having anxiety attacks while pregnant, only to find that they come back once the child is born. Its amazing the way pregnancy can affect the mind and body both in physical and mental ways.

    So claiming a cause and effect with pregnancy and anxiety attacks is not that simple, and certainly cannot be done through the Internet. But there are plenty of possible causes of anxiety attacks related to your pregnancy.

    When Pregnancy Brings On Panic Attacks

    How To Overcome Panic Attacks During Pregnancy (Even ...

    Anxiety and stress during pregnancy are more common than you might think. Even women who have never had a panic attack before may experience one while they’re expecting.

    Though many women might think of pregnancy as a magical time, it is not always nine months of bliss. Stress and anxiety may run high. And panic attacks during pregnancy are actually quite common. Up to 10 percent of pregnant women struggle with panic attacks, says Gina Hassan, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Berkeley, Calif., who specializes in perinatal health.

    The symptoms of a panic attack during pregnancy are no different from a panic attack at any other time:

    People feel like theyre having a heart attack, Hassan says. Some women feel like theyre going to die.

    Women who have a history of panic attacks are more likely to experience panic attacks when they are pregnant. However, women who have never had a panic attack in their lives may find themselves experiencing them during pregnancy, Hassan says. On the other hand, some women who get panic attacks may find they subside when they are pregnant.

    The diagnosis of a panic attack is based on a womans description of her symptoms. She may complain of being nauseated, having difficulty breathing, and feeling like she might die. She may go to the ER, where doctors may order tests. To some degree, diagnosing a panic attack is ruling out other causes for these symptoms, Hassan says.

    Read Also: Depression Terrain Feature

    Whats The Treatment For Anxiety In Pregnancy

    Your midwife or GP will talk to you about all your options and the pros and cons of each treatment. Whats best for you will depend on things like:

    • how bad your symptoms are
    • what has help you in the past
    • what services are available locally.

    Anxiety, phobias and panic attacks are usually treated using self-help treatments based on cognitive behavioural therapy .

    “I didn’t think CBT would work but I found it so helpful. I had a little guide book so if I was feeling anxious at work or at home, I could refer to it for tips and pointers to get me through certain situations.

    If you need more help you may be referred to a specialist mental health team for pregnant women. You may also be offered therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and applied relaxation with a professional therapist. You may also be offered medication, such as antidepressants.

    Find out more about treatment and support for mental health.

    Psychiatric Disorders In Pregnancy

    Pregnancy is generally thought to be a time of happiness and emotional well-being for a woman. However, for many women, pregnancy and motherhood increase their vulnerability to psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and psychoses. These conditions are often underdiagnosed because they are attributed to pregnancy-related changes in maternal temperament or physiology. In addition, such conditions are often undertreated because of concerns about potential harmful effects of medication. Practitioners and allied health professionals caring for pregnant or postpartum patients affected by psychiatric conditions can access services for these patients by contacting the Reproductive Mental Health program at BC Womens Hospital and St. Pauls Hospital.

    Depression, panic disorder, bipolar illness, and other psychiatric conditions can occur during pregnancy and should be considered when assessing the health of a pregnant patient.

    Depression in pregnancy

    Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder associated with pregnancy. Pregnant women may also suffer from anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. While it is rare for women to experience first-onset psychoses during pregnancy, relapse rates are high for women previously diagnosed with some form of psychosis.

    Anxiety disorders in pregnancy

    Panic disorder

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder


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