Panic Attack During Pregnancy: What You Should Do In The
Some Anxiety Is Okay But You Need To Seek Help When It Becomes Too Much
Since the purpose of anxiety is to make us more alert and try to resolve or avoid something that we are stressed out about, it is accompanied by a sense of agitation and readiness for action. In the ideal world, we would get to alleviate anxiety-provoking concerns and move on. But what if it is not clear what action we can take, or actions we take cannot possibly resolve all of the anxiety? Sometimes anxiety takes a life of its own and begins to threaten a womans wellbeing in ways that require help from a mental health professional.
One of my clients, Katie , had a history of two miscarriages and was anxious about the possibility of this happening again. Many pregnant women share and struggle with this fear. Although her obstetrician felt Katie did not need to limit her physical activity, she decided to stop exercising just in case. She became picky about the food she ate. She tuned into every cramp and Googled miscarriage symptoms. Words of reassurance from her obstetrician were not soothing. She lived through the pain and grief of miscarriage and no one could reassure her it would not happen again. Reaching the second trimester provided no relief. It didnt help that one of her good friends who was pregnant at the same time as Katie experienced stillbirth. She grew more agitated and exhausted, and her husband finally convinced her to see a therapist. Once her anxiety diminished, she said: I dont know what came over me it was like I couldnt stop spiraling.
How Can Stress Affect Your Pregnancy
Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy because pregnancy is a time of many changes. Your family life, your body and your emotions are changing. You may welcome these changes, but they can add new stresses to your life.
High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease. During pregnancy, stress can increase the chances of having a premature baby or a low-birthweight baby . Babies born too soon or too small are at increased risk for health problems.
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What Are Some Treatments For Anxiety During Pregnancy
Fortunately, there are many treatments that can reduce anxiety during pregnancy and help you feel better. For many women, anti-anxiety medication is not an option during pregnancy, as there is little information on the safety of such medication on the fetus. Some women who had previously taken medications for anxiety may wish to discontinue medications during pregnancy for personal reasons.
Therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy demonstrate promise in the peripartum period . CBT focuses on challenging maladaptive thoughts, emotions, and actions, and it uses anxiety management strategies such as diaphragmatic breathing .
If your anxiety is severe, medications may be an option for you. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are commonly prescribed for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after delivery. It does not appear that SSRIs are associated with an increased risk of major congenital malformations. However, SSRIs may be associated with transient neonatal symptoms such as jitteriness, tremor, crying, and trouble feeding, which resolve on their own in a few days.
The use of benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and alprazolam during pregnancy has long been a controversial topic. Although older studies showed an association between their use and an increased risk for cleft lip and palate, a more recent study looking at benzodiazepine use during pregnancy did not show this link when these medications were used alone .
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, it’s going to continue to do so until your hormones return to normal.
But that doesn’t mean that you need to live with anxiety attacks throughout your pregnancy. There are several important things to note:
- Preventing Recurrence Post-Pregnancy It’s 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 they’ll 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.
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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.
There Are Things You Can Do To Feel Better
There are many strategies that can help alleviate anxiety during pregnancy. Some will work for you while others might not. Keep searching for what works and commit to daily practice. Here are five things you can do to reduce anxiety:
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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. It’s 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.
Feed Your Body Regularly Scheduled Healthy Meals
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar can lead to feelings that mimic panic, explains Snyder. This is compounded in pregnancy as hypoglycemia can also lead to increased nausea.”
Eating small, high protein meals throughout the day can reduce the sense of panic that comes with extreme hunger and can also minimize nausea.
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Symptoms Of Depression During Pregnancy
It can be tricky to diagnose mood disorders during pregnancy because “some of the symptoms can overlap with symptoms of pregnancy, such as changes in appetite, energy levels, concentration, or sleep,” Dr. Smith says. “It’s also normal to have some degree of worry over the health of the pregnancy.” But if you experience persistent symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, especially if you’re unable to function normally, get help.
Symptoms of depression during pregnancy include:
- Being in a depressed mood most of the time for at least two weeks. You may feel sad, hopeless, empty, and generally discontented.
- No longer enjoying the things you used to enjoy
- Persistent fear of having a panic attack
What I Didnt Know: The Truth About Prenatal Anxiety And Depression
I feel awful, and no one is listening to me, I started, through tears, as I sat in a small office, 33 weeks pregnant, across from my neurologist. I had recently experienced a severe migraine a condition for which there are scans and tests and a clear protocol to follow. I am terrified to have another C-section and I dont know that I even want this baby, I choked on my words.
My kind neurologist, looked me right in the eyes, and said the words that I will never forget: I am not worried about anything neurological with you. But, I am scared that you are going to have this baby and develop a walloping case of postpartum depression. He then dictated a memo to my OBGYN, urging him to take me seriously, explaining to him that I was suffering that I needed compassion that I needed help.
What I didnt know then was that I was experiencing the all-too-common but little-known affliction called prenatal distress. I was the mother of an enchanting three-year-old girl, I was the writer of a mommy blog about tutus and tummy-time, and yet, I was suffering. I had no history of mental health issues, I had a stable home life, access to great medical care in a major metropolitan city, but still I was not immune.
From the moment I became pregnant with my son, something was not right. I was preoccupied by my worries about my unborn babys well-being, on a never ending mental carousel that spun me, mercilessly, and from which I could not get off.
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Anxiety Likely Falls Within Normal Range Of Experience If:
- you can still enjoy your life and be present to positive aspects of your pregnancy even when anxiety is present ,
- you are able to control how you feel with some ease anxiety is fleeting and diminishes considerably thanks to your coping efforts it shows up in response to a particular stressor and feels proportionate to it ,
- you are able to experience a variety of other emotions and anxiety does not dominate your daily life you are able to return to a state of relative calm which is much more frequent than the state of anxiety ,
- you are able to engage in and enjoy important aspects of your life such as relationships, work, hobbies, or other activities .
Know That Its Normal For Symptoms To Come And Go
Despite the fact that the internet often says one of the symptoms of miscarriage is the disappearance of pregnancy symptoms, most of the time this is just something that happens during pregnancy. Sore boobs was one of my strongest early symptoms and I remember one day around seven weeks pregnant, I noticed with much dismay that my boobs didnt hurt AT ALL. I was in total hysteria. A day or so later, the soreness would return but not as bad as it was originally.
From talking with friends, I know its really common for morning sickness to start and stop as well. This can be very scary, but most of the time, its nothing to worry about.
ALL of my symptoms seemed to do this. And the whole time I was freaking out, my babies were growing right on track, as if nothing was wrongbecause it wasnt!
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