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Severe Panic Disorder During Pregnancy: How To Cope

written by: Jennifer Gunnerson • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/10/2010

Some expectant mothers who suffer from severe panic disorder during pregnancy may experience an increase in the frequency of panic attacks, while others may find that their symptoms decrease. Find out what triggers panic attacks during pregnancy, and what women can do to control them.

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    Severe Panic Disorder During Pregnancy

    It is estimated that more than 30% of women will experience a form of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. For these women, becoming pregnant may complicate their current treatment plans and force them to seek alternative therapies. In the third trimester, women experience increased neurotransmitter activity; some studies indicate that this increased activity and other biological changes could possibly act as a trigger for panic attacks. The course that severe panic disorder takes during pregnancy can vary greatly from case to case. While some women who suffer from severe panic disorder may experience a reduction in their symptoms during pregnancy, others may experience an increase in panic symptoms.

    Women who experience a reduction in panic symptoms during pregnancy may wish to reduce or discontinue their medication. Using relaxation techniques can help women to manage the symptoms that remain. Deep breathing exercises, whether learned through the practice of yoga, meditation or from a licensed therapist, may help pregnant women to relax the body and calm the mind at the onset of an attack.

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    Managing the Symptoms of Panic Disorder Through Nutrition, Exercise and Rest.

    Another important factor in managing severe panic disorder during pregnancy is nutrition. A well balanced diet, free from caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and non-prescription drugs is not only important for the health of the unborn baby, it can play a vital role in helping the expectant mother control her panic symptoms. A diet rich in foods containing tryptophan may help to naturally relax the body. Foods such as; milk, nuts, cheese, bananas, oats, sesame seeds and soy are great sources of tryptophan.

    Along with a healthful diet, a pregnant woman should also be sure to do plenty of low impact exercises. Exercise can be an effective way to relieve anxiety and stress, both of which can trigger panic attacks. Walking, swimming and yoga are all good examples of low impact exercise that may be effective in managing the symptoms of severe panic disorder. Expectant mothers should check with their doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

    Maintaining healthy sleep habits can also play an important role in managing panic attacks during pregnancy. Rest is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, but is especially important for women who are expecting. Lack of sleep can adversely effect mood and trigger anxiety and panic.

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    Conclusion

    Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for women who suffer from extreme panic disorder to continue to experience panic attacks during pregnancy. This is especially common if a woman who was able to stabilize her symptoms before pregnancy suddenly discontinues her medication after discovering the pregnancy. A woman should always consult with her doctor before discontinuing or altering her prescribed medication for panic disorder. In some cases, a woman’s doctor may wish to alter the dosage or type of medication. A doctor will be able to weigh the possible side effects of medication with the potential harm that the untreated panic disorder may cause to the mother and baby.

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    References

    1) http://copingwithpanicattacks.net/panic-attacks-during-pregnancy-how-will-it-affect-your-baby

    2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1163270/

    3) http://www.bcwomens.ca/Services/HealthServices/ReproductiveMentalHealth/PsychiatricDisorders/Panic+Disorders.htm