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How Does Panic Disorder Affect Pregnancy?

How Does Panic Disorder Affect Pregnancy?

While getting pregnant may come with loads of excitement, it's not nine months of bliss. According to research, 2.7% of pregnant women globally experience panic disorder, which comes with various risk problems. Read on to learn how the panic disorder affects pregnancy and how remedies like baby bump candles can help ease any related issues.

Panic Disorder Before Pregnancy

Panic disorder is a mental health condition that causes sudden and repeated attacks of extreme fear. It's different from having a generalised anxiety disorder, where you worry about many things. Your worries are often out of proportion with what's happening in panic disorder.

Panic disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood, but it can affect people at any age. Women are more likely to develop panic disorder than men, and the difference between their numbers is insignificant. 

If you have already been diagnosed with panic disorder, it's essential to know that the condition is likely to worsen during pregnancy and after childbirth. One reason is that women who have panic attacks often find it challenging to cope with stress during pregnancy and new parenthood.

What Are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear that occur suddenly and often unexpectedly. During a panic attack, you may feel ‌you're having a heart attack or losing control, which can be terrifying and painful. Attacks can vary from 10 minutes to several hours.

The primary symptom of a panic attack is the sudden onset of intense anxiety. A rapid heartbeat (tachycardia), sweating, trembling, and feelings of impending doom usually accompany the anxiety.

A panic attack comprises three stages: the build-up, attack, and recovery phases. These stages can be highly stressful and frightening, but rarely dangerous. Although they're highly unpleasant, untreated panic attacks will usually pass, causing no permanent harm to your health.

Is It Safe to Get Pregnant with Panic Disorder?

The good news is that it's pretty safe to get pregnant with a history of panic disorder. Ultimately, some women find that the symptoms of panic disorder improve during pregnancy.

The bad news is that panic attacks can be very frightening and sometimes misinterpreted as dangerous for your baby. For this reason, it's essential to seek help if you have panic attacks during pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife can help you ‌manage your symptoms to ensure they don't disrupt your life.

Your doctor may also advise you to avoid certain medications during pregnancy, especially if you have severe anxiety or depression. However, this isn't always necessary. For example, a first-time mother with a history of panic disorder may experience relief after panic attack, even with no specific treatment.

Panic Attacks During Pregnancy

Panic attacks during pregnancy are frequent and can occur at any time from conception through the first year after childbirth. However, most attacks during pregnancy are in the third trimester.

As the pregnancy progresses, women experience increased oestrogen levels, which can irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Without proper care, these changes can cause terrifying ingestion and heartburn, triggering panic attacks in some women.

Pregnant women also experience changes in their body image and may feel that they are not attractive anymore. This condition leads to anxiety and worries about what others think of them and resultant panic attacks. Last, pregnancy hormones can also cause mood swings, leading to panic attacks.

Signs You May Have a Panic Disorder

The most common physical symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Sweating
  • Fast heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Feeling light-headed or faint
  • Severe nausea/stomach pain.
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Fear of losing control or dying

Symptoms may vary from one person to another as you undergo the three phases of panic attacks.

Panic Attacks Effect on the Baby

Panic attacks can harm the baby since the baby is affected by all of your emotions, both positive and negative. Your doctor may advise you to keep your stress levels low by avoiding unnecessary stressors to reduce anxiety.

Preterm labor can also cause panic attacks, putting your baby at risk for serious health problems. If this is the case, you may need to take certain medications that will calm your mind and help prevent labor from starting prematurely.

Never ignore how you feel or try to suppress your feelings without getting them under control first. If possible, undergo therapy and medication to keep the attacks under control.

You can also:

  • Try relaxation techniques to relieve anxiety and stress
  • Practice mindfulness meditation to reduce stressors
  • Schedule time for yourself to reduce anxiety
  • Use HYP baby bump candle to soothe psychological tension

Where to Seek Help?

You may need help dealing with panic attacks if:

  • You experience extreme stress, which affects you and the baby.
  • Panic attacks make it difficult to take care of yourself or your baby.
  • Stressors that trigger the attack are out of your control.
  • Symptoms become severe to a point you require hospitalization.

Talk to your doctor or midwife right away. These professionals can provide you with information about what steps to take next. They'll also ask questions about your symptoms to rule out other tragic conditions, like severe mental illness. The more information they have, the better they'll be able to help you manage your condition successfully.

How Can You Help Yourself During Panic Attacks?

The most critical rule when experiencing panic attacks is to relax and focus on your breathing. Do something that will distract you from your anxiety so that you can calm down and reduce the physical symptoms as you wait for medical help.

Here are some ideas:

  • Take deep breaths while counting slowly to 10. This mindfulness will help you calm down and reduce symptoms like racing heart, sweating, dizziness, and nausea.
  • Try yoga or meditation to help bring your body back into balance and promote calmness.
  • Listen to music or read a book while taking slow deep breaths through your nose until your breathing returns to normal.

Your pregnancy should be a success story even with a history of panic disorder. With these remedies in mind and guidelines from your doctor, there's nothing to worry about.