Fact Checked

Anxiety Attacks During Pregnancy

Faiq Shaikh, M.D.
Anxiety Attacks During Pregnancy

Pregnancy may represent something genuinely happy and exciting, but pregnancy itself can be very stressful. Your body goes through considerable hormonal changes. You feel aches and pains you never felt before. You have to worry about your own health, worry about the health of the fetus, and worry about how you're going to live your life once you bring a baby into this world.

Pregnancy may also increase your risk of developing anxiety attacks, and when you're pregnant these attacks can be an incredible challenge. This article explores the relationship between pregnancy and panic attacks and suggests possible treatment options.

The Health of Anxiety Attacks

Any time you experience some of the stresses of an anxiety attack, it's never a bad idea to visit a doctor just in case. Pregnancy does have many complications, and it can often be hard to tell the difference between an anxiety attack and something more serious.

What is an Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks are extremely stressful events - especially for pregnant women. Often referred to as "panic attacks," anxiety attacks are moments of intense anxiety that manifest in physical symptoms. During an anxiety attack, you're likely to experience:

These are the same symptoms that anyone with an anxiety attack experiences, regardless of pregnancy. What tends to cause more problems is the feeling of doom. During an anxiety attack (which usually peaks about 10 minutes in), there is often this incredibly intense feeling of doom, usually about your health. That's why so many of those with anxiety attacks end up visiting a doctor.

When you are pregnant, your concerns about the health of the child can increase the effects of your anxiety attack dramatically, because now you're worrying about the health of two, not just your own.

That's why anxiety attacks represent such a serious issue for those that are pregnant. That level of anxiety can be devastating and make your quality of life worse, and since doctors recommend trying to be as stress-free as possible when you're with child, controlling your anxiety attacks becomes very important.

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:

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.

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:

Also, the vast majority of anxiety attacks can be controlled even when they have a physical cause. It often takes a bit longer to control them because it involves recognizing and understanding emotions and experiences that are not entirely related to mental health, but they can still be controlled nonetheless without the use of medication.

That last point is key. Unfortunately, mental health medications are thoroughly unadvised for those who are pregnant. While this may limit your options for treating your mental health, it should be noted that most anxiety medications act as more of a crutch than they do an actual treatment. They may be valuable as a short-term solution, but most stop working in the long term, have many side effects, and can take away your ability to cope with stress further.

That's why you'll need to take advantage of medication-free options. There are several relaxation exercises that may be beneficial. If you have the room available, you may also want to create a relaxation room - a room dedicated to nothing but your own mental health. It should be a room that is:

It should be a room that is as quiet as possible that you can go into and experience nothing but a relaxing, quiet experience. This can be beneficial not only for dealing with your own stresses, but also for handling being a parent.

Finally, there is never a wrong time to consider broader anxiety-reduction strategies. These include therapy and lifestyle changes that you are able to adopt for the future. Even though pregnancy may play a role in these attacks, the lessons you learn and the help you receive may create some life-long change.

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