Panic Attacks and Pregnancy

Updated on February 25, 2008
D.B. asks from Los Angeles, CA
24 answers

I am in my second trimester and I've started having panic attacks. I used to get them years ago, and it seems to have come back big time. I don't feel especially nervous or scared, and I'm a generally happpy person, but they keep coming back, and it's really starting to bring me down. Yoga seems to help a bit. Did anyone else get this? I'm feeling kind of alone and my Dr. and my husband don't seem to get it.

What can I do next?

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G.O.

answers from Los Angeles on

How about seeing a therapist? You might have feelings that are coming up with the pregnancy that you need to talk to a professional about. I saw a therapist when my mother passed away and again for 3 months when my daughter turned 3 months because I went into post-partum depression for a week due to lack of sleep and working full-time. The therapist I saw was seeing other first-time moms (I have a 15-year old son and suffered from post-partum depression that time for 5 months due to my feelings of inadequacy) and we would meet every month to discuss motherhood, husbands, etc. It helped tremendously!

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D.H.

answers from San Diego on

I just wrote and published a book that just came out January 10th. It is called The SuperConfitelligent Child: Loving to Learn through Movement and Play.
My dream is that all pregnant mothers read it so they learn the 10 Tension Tamers I teach in the 3rd Chapter of the book. the #10 Tension tamer would pull you back together at the slightest feelings of a Panic attack coming on.
The rest of the book has primary learning tools for you and your husband to playfully do with your baby girl through the different stages of development.
The book is not yet in Barnes and Nobel and Borders so at this point contact me directly at [email protected]____.com if you would like to get a copy.
I am presenting at the Trust Birth Conference in Redondo Beach March 7th. Please introduce yourself to me if you go!

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L.B.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hello D.,

I did not get panic attacks while pregnant, but I would suggest you seek out a therapist. I say therapy mainly because right now your husband and doctor aren't empathizing with you; you are pregnant, hormones, stress level etc.. do their own thing and don't need much help from us or our environment. Yoga is great and with the help of a therapist you could pinpoint the triggers. A therapist can also assist you with self regulating and relaxation techniques should your panic attacks occur.

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L.H.

answers from San Diego on

I second the first response. For the sake of your child, please contact a therapist for an assessment as your chances of PPD are greater. It is not inevitable, but having some extra tools in place for yourself now and later, can only help you feel more confident.

I needed some extra care as well and I was/am so grateful that I had/have those resources!

All the best to you!

Jen

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V.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Dear D.,

I have struggled with panic attacks my whole life and through two pregnancies (we have two wonderful healthy daughters). One of the things that is a huge trigger for panic attacks but is seldom mentioned (although I found a very helpful chapter on it in the great book "Don't Panic" by R. Reid Wilson) is estrogen. So, it's not that you are a nervous or scared person, it's that you're pregnant! Your hormones are the thing that is crazy, not you. So, it sounds as if your panic attacks are chemical and, since you've suffered previously, you probably have a brain-chemistry that trends this way. Keep doing the yoga and be gentle with yourself. Treat is as another symptom of pregnancy, something that you must breathe through and endure. But know that you are NOT alone and that there are many of us who have been through this too.

Good luck!
V.

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A.L.

answers from San Diego on

Hi D.,
I would highly recommend acupuncture. If you need help finding one near you, acufinder.com.

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R.J.

answers from San Diego on

Panic attacks are about not trusting. Even if you feel fine most of the time, there is an issue on a deeper level you are not in touch with or addressing. I would try a Bach Flower Remedy, which are incredibly mild though contain a small amount of alcohol, so check with a doctor. Rescue Remedy is always good for panic attacks, and intuitively I feel like Agrimony would be good for you. Whenever I get a panic attack I always remind myself to trust in the goodness of the universe, which knows what is best for my soul to grow, so i need not have any fear.
Hope this helps!

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P.R.

answers from Seattle on

Something to consider is your vitamin B intake. Pregnancy burns up the B vitamins like crazy due to the increased stress on your body. If you are becoming deficient, it can impact your ability to cope well. What you had energy to deal with before will feel more like a crisis now, for example.

Fiber rich foods are brimming over with vitamin B. You can take supplements, but our body best uses vitamin B when it comes together with the fiber source. It is important to get enough vitamin B or you could end up with pre-term labor if deficiencies get dangerously low.

If your eating habits have consistantly been responsible ones, for example, if your life-long eating history has been free of crash dieting, self starvation, other eating disorders, or drug use and if you have been preparing your body for a strong pregnancy by eating lots of dark leafy greens, vegetables, fresh fruits, and other healthy foods and if you have kept to this standard through your pregnancy up until now, then it is likely that your panicky feelings are being caused by something else other than a vitamin B deficiency.

Doctors tend to know little about nutrition, so if you are facing a vitamin deficiency, seeing a nutritionist who specializes in pregnancy nutrition would be great.

Post partum depression tends to hit around the 6th week after delivery. The typical women who gets PPD are those who do not start sleeping through the night by then. Infants generally begin REM sleep by the 6th week, which is also when lochia stops flowing. Up until the 6th week it is beneficial for the baby to nurse at night becuase it helps return the uterus to its pre-pregnant size. After that, it is habit, not necessity. Your baby will benefit from the growth hormone and neurotransmitter repair that only occurs during uninterrupted, deep sleep. So, train your baby with confidence at that point. It might possibly be a difficult step in growth for your baby, but a nurturing response from you will do wonders.

Best of luck to you! There are so many wonderful things to learn about motherhood. It is an intimidating journey, but there are such treasures of wisdom to find!!!

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K.V.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hey D.! I got some bad panic attacks when I was pregnant with my second child. Went to a psychiatrist who taught me some meditative breathing techniques to deal with the panic, since we can't take any of the typical panic drugs when pregnant. I highly encourage you to continue the yoga, and try to find a teacher who does pranayama (breathing) techniques. It really helps.

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W.J.

answers from Los Angeles on

I don't really have much wisdom to offer you, but I can relate to what you are feeling. I too am pregnant with a girl due in July (also my first baby) and in the past couple weeks I've started having more anxiety about all of the changes coming up. I'm just letting you know that you are not alone, and now I know that I'm not either.
I've been treated for depression/anxiety for years and have opted to stay on a low dose of my meds during pregnancy rather than suffer, so I see my Dr. monthly. If yoga and pranayama don't make the difference, it would be worth seeing a psychiatrist. Your sense of well-being is important for you and the baby.

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T.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

I can totally relate to this horrible feeling that comes over you! I remember my first panic attack vividly. I was pregnant with my son and we were staying at my mother in laws house. I woke up in th middle of the night and my heart was racing. I actually asked my husband to take me to the emergency room. I thought I was having a heart attack.
Well, not to worry, it is not a heart attack atall. Because all your organs and smushed way up - almost out your throat - you are not getting as much oxygen/air and sometimes that causes these attacks. BREATHE! The best advice I got was to focus on my breathing. Breathe slowly and count, think of a calm place, lying out in the warm sun at the beach. Another great help for me was tea. A hot cup pf tea - camomile did the trick for me - completely relaxed me. Ask your husband to rub your back or hold you - that also worked. Use your mind to calm yourself - you can do it!

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A.J.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi D.-
I also got panic attacks during my pregnancy. My husband didn't get it either. Bringing a baby into the world is a crazy thing! I think as mothers we just are more in tune with what a change it's going to be. I've been getting them after pregnancy as well. (life has got some crazy things going on right now) Walking has helped tons. Just getting out of the house has helped me tons. I don't know how you feel or if this would even help. I hope that it does. Feel free to e-mail me at any time. Venting also seems to help. Especially when it's someone that has been there or understands. Hang in there!
A.

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A.M.

answers from San Diego on

Congrats on your baby girl. I have a little girl and boy do they grow up fast. Anyway, I am a social worker who used to work with pregnant women. If your Dr. will not help, ask for a referral to see a therapist/social worker/psychologist who can help you and assess your needs. There is also meds that can be taken if it is really bad. If you are havign these symptoms now, also be on the lookout for post partum depression. Please talk to someone about this as well. I wish you the best.
A.

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K.F.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi D.,

I'm sorry to hear you're suffering. Sometimes panic attacks are brought on by some memory from the past being stirred up. The memory can be something that is completely unconscious, for example seeing an empty school bus. The memory can also be an unconscious body memory. Having unconscious body memories stirred up is not uncommon in pregnancy as one starts to experience sensations in one's body that don't happen that commonly over a life time, but could be reminescent of a previous sensation or experience. If this sounds like it could be what's going on for you, you might want to take a look at the website www.traumahealing.com . There is a list of practitioners there to choose from(of which I am one) if you decide that getting the type of help offered there is the route for you.

Best of luck,
K. F., Ph.D.c

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A.Y.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi D.

I used to have a terrible problem with panic attacks. What I've figured out over the years is that for me on of the biggest connections is my diet. More than one cup of coffee and I'll start getting anxious. Also, sugar plays a huge part for me. When I don't eat sugar, I have very little anxiety. So, I'd suggest keeping track of what you eat for a while to get an idea wether this could be part of the problem. Yoga and breathing exercises are very helpful for me as well.

Good luck to you!

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C.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hello D.,
If you want to talk to someone about your panic attacks, my DH is a licensed family therapist practicing in Long Beach. He knows alot about panic attacks. His website is http://www.georgecastromft.com .

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I.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi there. You are not alone. I had panic attacks in my third trimester. I too would get them periodically in the past but when I was pregnant, it seemed to escalate. When the first one happened, my husband took me to the emergency room because my heart was racing so bad and I was terrified it was hurting our baby. My baby girl was totally fine but I was freaked out. My doctor did prescribe something for me but I think I only took it once. I didn't want to take any chances.

I did Yoga and acupuncture. I walked alot too. I talked to my husband, my mom, friends, my therapist, etc. I also had an amazing doula that helped me. It all helped...a lot.

As a precaution, have your doctor check your thyroid levels. Sometimes during pregnancy the hormones go haywire and it could throw it off. Also, even though you think you feel fine, having a child is a wonderful, life-changing event. Having a panic attack about that is really no surprise.

I hope this helps you. Just know you are not alone and if your doctor doesn't get it...find one that does. You need someone to listen to you and care for you. Not make you feel alone.

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G.K.

answers from Los Angeles on

hey D. b:

i really feel for u. just dealing pregnancy can get to be overwhelming sometimes. i am not sure what else is going on in your life. i would strongly suggest that u seek therapy if u are not already in therapy.

i know it might be hard to make time for it but u deserve that much... 1 hour a week is something u might be able to work out. it can be tough financially so u might look for low cost county sibsidized places. please take care of yourself! all the best!

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D.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi. I have had panic attacks for many years and was so concerned when I got pregnant as the medication I took was a "D" drug, which you cannot take during pregnancy. Anyway, I spent a long time with my ob trying to figure out what I could take and we came up with Benadryl. It has anti-anxiety properties in it and it is a "B" drug which is safe in pregnancy. When you take it, it really takes the edge off and worked very well for me. People that don't have an anxiety disorder don't understand how debilitating it can be. If you want to talk more to me or need support, you can e-mail me at [email protected]____.com luck. ~Dena

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T.A.

answers from San Diego on

I understand your pain. I had panic attacks for 1 year straight before I got pregnant and I managed to control them through talk therapy. I didn't get them during my pregnancy until the last month when my husband went through surgery and it was a very stressful time for us. Breathing exercises worked for me but I rec. getting the book Mind Over Mood that really helped me learn how to cope with the panic attacks.

Good luck! I am currently dealing with PPD 2 months post-birth so I sympathise with you.

T

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T.W.

answers from Santa Barbara on

Hello My name is Terrilynn and I experienced the same thing you are experiencing. I aslso suffered from panic disorder years before my children and pregnancy felt like I got over them and then found out I was pregnant and started getting them again. I see a therapist because I still get then here and there she told me that they will go away but when huge events good or bad happen your sub-concious seems to play with your concious and you need to take ten minutes a day to be alone and focus on all the positvie this will help you from getting them also I have been breathing deeply for 5 minutes a day this seems to really help. If your husband has never had them before he will never understand you My husband is the same way and they act as if you are weak but really your not you just think things through way more than they do. congrats and you are soooo not alone feel free to email me anytime I would love to be there for you and help if you would like the best support is some one who gets it.

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C.J.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have and still occasionally get them (when I wear myself out). And no its not all in your head. They come whether you want them to or not. I refuse meds, but have zanax just in case. I've been rushed to the ER because my friend thought I was having a stroke it got that bad.

My sis in law got them while pregnant and they gave her magnesium (natural and safe). Check with your doc (if he'll listen) or a licensed nutritionist for the amount you should take for being pregnant. It worked wonderfully for her.

Practical things that my nutritionist/chiro is working on me is SLEEP. Try to have a regular sleep cycle as much as possible. Adrenals play a huge role in panic attacks and sleep affects them. Absolutely NO caffiene. Even decaf has to much. I read that a certain popular coffee chains decaf is actually 6x's what is considered decaf. I can't even do that. Also watch your SUGAR intake. It throws your blood sugar levels off and its a huge trigger. Keep a balance of carbs/fiber and lots of protien snacks handy. Green apples are good. I am also suppossed to have a light protein snack before bed. I eat a handful of nuts while watching tv.

Please feel free to send me a message if you want more practical tips. But also know that God has it all in control and try to find a way to release any fear, stress, worries off of yourself. Whether you pray, meditate, yoga, take a walk, do something that allows you to release anything that might be building up. Do you find yourself taking large sighs during the day? You could be holding onto something and not realize it.
Take Care,
C.- a fellow panic attacker in recovery!!!

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M.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Di:

I would suggest that you call Dr. David Karaba and set up an appointment for a consultation. You can tell him I referred you. He's in Fullerton at the East West Medical Group on Commonwealth. Phone number ###-###-####. Trust me - he will "get it." And, he may be able to help you. Through a combination of Eastern and Western medicine, a technique has been developed to eliminate allergies and emotional blockages from your body. (go to naet.com for more information, and/or read the book "Say Good Bye to Illness."

I met Dr. Karaba when he was a guest lecturer in one of of my college classes. At the time I had been on antidepressants and anti anxiety meds for several years, and yes, I used to have panic attacks. I went to Dr. Karaba to treat for depression and I not only have not had any panic attacks, I have never felt more comfortable being me, and have been totally off antidepressants and anti anxiety meds for months.

In addition to the help you may receive regarding the panic attacks, if you clear yourself of any allergies while you are pregnant, your child will be less disposed to being allergic to things after birth.

Best wishes

M. S.

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A.R.

answers from Honolulu on

Have you tried Rescue Remedy? It is an all natural Bach flower essence & you can get it at a health food store (around $15 if you shop around) and it is sooo helpful. I took a prenatal yoga class & it was suggested by a midwife who had delivered many babies. She suggested taking it during delivery, too. It is not harmful to you (it has a very small amount of alcohol, but only about the same amount as flavorings (like vanilla extract), so it is a minuscule amount). You drop a few drops under your tongue (I've even heard it is great for hyperactive kids).

Also, I know you have done breath work since you mentioned yoga, so check out this website: drjoy.com & click the link to hear her square-breathing instructions. Dr Joy is a clinical psychologist on the radio & she is amazing... you can even give her a call if nothing seems to be helping - she is really on-target with her advice & very intuitive.

I hope you don't get too discouraged when your family doesn't understand - sometimes people just can't know unless they have experienced something. If your doctor isn't helping you, you might think about switching doctors, or maybe keep this doc & also go see a therapist who can help you find some drug-free relief. Nothing is wrong with a little therapy to help make your life easier & more fulfilling!
Hope that helps & congratulations!

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