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Call Dr. Blumberg Now: 1-800-366-6570

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Panic disorder and Pregnancy

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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 wasn’t enough, there is also the simultaneous social pressure that can feed your anxiety. What woman hasn’t heard comments like ‘you must be so happy’ or ‘you’ve got such a wonderful glow about you” and not felt any of that?

It’s worth noting that there is such a thing as positive anxiety. It’s 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 it’s 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

Panic attacks can develop when you become pre-occupied with normal bodily sensations of adrenaline e.g. heart pounding, shortness of breath, weakness, lightheadedness and spacey feelings and develop the false worry that the heart pounding and shortness of breath can cause damage to “my baby’s development.” The false worry that heart pounding and other anxiety sensations could cause damage to your baby during your pregnancy sets off a false alarm in the brain and produces more adrenaline, which intensifies the feelings of heart pounding, shortness of breath. The more intense the heart pounding and shortness breath, the more you worry that the normal bodily sensations of adrenaline will cause harm to my baby. The vicious cycle of panic develops.

But how do you know that what your feeling is healthy and normal, or something that could potentially be damaging? It’s not easy to understand our emotions as-is, but when you factor pregnancy into the equation, it can becoming even more difficult to differentiate between whether you’re just feeling ‘off’ or being unwell. It’s a fine line between difficult feelings and being unhealthy. Always consult your Doctor if you are not sure of the cause of bodily sensations during pregnancy.

If you’re suffering from anxiety, or worse yet – panic attacks while pregnant, it’s 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.

It’s Not Your Fault

The first thing to reconcile with yourself is that if you are feeling anxious and are having panic attacks, that you should by no means feel regret or guilt. No midwife or doctor worth their salt is going to dismiss you for having those feelings and can help organize treatments to help you stop panic in its tracks. It’s just as important to realize that you’re not alone; you’re a significant part of the population.

Estimates of anxiety disorders can vary greatly, but according to Wiegartz and Gyoerkoe – 5-16% of women struggle with some sort of anxiety and/or panic attacks during pregnancy. That’s more common than 80% of common illnesses. While there are certainly more significant implications that come from anxiety and panic disorder than say – a common cold; know that your problem is common and that you can learn to reverse the vicious cycle of panic with a drug-free Cognitive Behavioral Treatment(CBT) Program.

Panic Attacks Post Pregnancy Can Lead to the Fear of Being Alone with Your Newborn

When you reconcile that your anxiety and panic attacks aren’t your fault, it’s important to seek out a scientifically validated treatment program. Panic disorder is a serious illness and can have a significant impact on your pregnancy and carries with it a wide range of risks including – an increased risk of postpartum depression and anxiety, and anticipatory anxiety e.g. “what if I suddenly get struck with shortness of breath, weakness, rubbery legs heat waves, disorientation and collapse and I am not able to care for my new born.” These false fears can be so intense that a panic-stricken mother can be fearful of being alone with her new born baby and only feels secure if she has a safe person to stay with her when she is taking care of her infant. Avoidance of being alone with your baby can develop. Your false worry is now only allayed when a safe person is nearby. You think, If a panic attack suddenly strikes me “out of the blue” and I am incapacitated, I have someone at home to take care of my baby.

While we fully understand that much of the above content has the potential to increase worry, the good news is that panic disorder is treatable. The challenge comes in communicating your feelings to your obstetrician.
Some obstetricians don’t screen for anxiety and panic disorder and as a result, you need to be proactive in your discussions with them. Remember – they’re there to help, so advocate for yourself by communicating what you’re feeling.

Treatments that Work

Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to be highly effective when treating anxiety and panic disorders. CBT is the only proven scientifically validated drug-free treatment for panic disorder. The panicLINK CBT program include a video-audio-workbook format to teach you the 6 Step takeCONTROL Training Method to stop panic in its tracks and get your life back on track. Once you learn to break the vicious cycle of panic, you next focus on gaining comfort in panic-provoking situations e.g. being alone with your newborn.

Most of all it’s important that you confront your fears and not allow them to consume your life. Do not let panic attacks and anxiety defeat you. There is always effective drug-free treatments available and things WILL get better!

Plan More Time for You

Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life where she’s often more concerned about her own physical well-being, that taking the time to take care of her emotional well being. Making time for yourself – to detach and unwind from the day-to-day demands of parenthood is important for your psychological well-being and can help relieve the build-up of stress and anxiety associated with parenting.

Whether it’s exercise, practicing stress-reduction techniques, mindfulness mediation or simply getting enough rest, make time for you and what gives you happiness. And of course, consult with doctors when determining what kind of activities can be beneficial and which ones you should avoid.

Saying No Without Feeling Guilty Can Reduce Stress Build-Up, Prevent Panic Attacks and Help You Live a More balanced Rewarding Interpersonal Life
Individuals pre-disposed to panic disorder have a people-pleasing, over accommodating interpersonal style. They focus on making other people in their life happy and often neglect their own needs. Often times, these individuals has a tendency to overextend and not recognize their limit and exhaust their own personal resources. This people-pleasing style can lead to feelings of chronic resentment in relationships, stress build-up and ultimately can trigger panic attacks. Learning how to recognize your limits and say no without feeling guilty can lead to a more balanced fulfilling interpersonal life and prevent the resurgence of panic attacks.

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