Panic Disorder Coping How to Manage Panic Attacks During Pregnancy By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD Facebook LinkedIn Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 16, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Trudie Davidson / Getty Images Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that involves persistent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks occur suddenly, bringing on feelings of fear, anxiety, nervousness, and apprehension. The emotional symptoms of panic attacks are typically experienced along with somatic sensations, such as accelerated heart rate, chest pain, lightheadedness, shaking, trembling, nausea, and numbness or tingling. Panic disorder sufferers who become pregnant may feel concerned about how pregnancy will affect their symptoms and vice versa. Research studies have been mixed, some finding that panic attacks and anxiety increases during pregnancy. While other studies suggest pregnant women report a reduction in panic and anxiety symptoms. It is not possible to determine whether your panic attacks and other anxiety-related symptoms will be aggravated during pregnancy. However, there are some steps you can take to help cope with your symptoms during pregnancy and beyond. Tips for Managing Panic Attacks During Pregnancy If you are worried about pregnancy and panic disorder, these tips on how to manage panic attacks while pregnant may help you. If you or a loved one are struggling with panic attacks, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Consult With Your Doctor First When it comes to pregnancy, it seems that everyone has his or her own personal anecdotes and steadfast opinions. For example, you may have a sister who shares her pregnancy experiences and advises you on what foods to avoid or perhaps you have an aunt who likes to tell you old wives' tales and pregnancy myths. Regardless of any advice you receive from others, always consult with your doctor first. Let your doctor know what concerns you have about your panic disorder during pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to help you sort out fact from fiction. She will also be there to thoroughly discuss treatment options while pregnant, including potential risks and benefits of medications for panic disorder. Work With a Therapist Psychotherapy can help you get a better handle on your panic attacks while pregnant. Your first therapy session will involve talking about your symptoms, medical history, and current life stressors. Through the therapy process, you will gain a better understanding of your symptoms and develop ways to cope with your condition. Your therapist can also use psychoeducation to assist you in understanding your symptoms. The knowledge and support provided through therapy can help reduce fears related to your symptoms and offer a sense of control of your panic attacks during pregnancy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of psychotherapy. CBT strives to shift negative thoughts and behaviors toward healthier perceptions and actions. For example, you may be experiencing anxiety-inducing thoughts, such as “Will my anxiety affect my pregnancy?” or “Does it upset the baby when I have a panic attack?” Such thoughts may contribute to increased feelings of fear, anxiety, and panic. Through CBT, you can learn to identify and change these types of thinking patterns to more positive and less anxiety-provoking ones. Relaxation techniques are also often learned through the CBT process. The stress felt throughout the body due to anxiety and panic can be lessened through the use of relaxation exercises. These techniques help you learn how to feel calmer, even when faced with anxiety. Some popular relaxation techniques include guided visualization, deep breathing techniques, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Spend Extra Time on Self-Care Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life in which she is often more concerned about her physical health and wellbeing. Putting some extra time aside to take care of yourself may help relieve some of your stress and anxiety. Self-care practices include any activities that you can do to enhance your health and overall wellness. For example, your self-care activities can include some form of exercise, practicing stress management skills, and getting enough rest. Consult your doctor to discuss what activities are safe to participate in during pregnancy. Keep a Support System Having loved ones to turn to can help you cope with your fears and uncertainties about panic, anxiety, and pregnancy. Let trusted friends and family members know about your concerns and enlist them to be available should you have any type of emergency. You may not need to call anyone for assistance, but it can help reduce your anxiety just knowing that loved ones are there for you should you need them. Have a Postpartum Plan You may have heard of postpartum depression, a term used to describe when women experience depression symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, after the birth of her child. Similarly, women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are at risk for increased anxiety after childbirth. Feelings of nervousness, fear, and isolation are common for new mothers. Fortunately, heightened anxiety and panic-related symptoms may be prevented with some preparation. Even though postpartum is typically a busy time for most women, it is important that you follow up with your doctor and/or therapist about your panic disorder. Continue to work on your treatment plan goals, such as managing anxiety, coping with panic attacks, and dealing with loneliness. Having a postpartum plan can help you to maintain progress on your path towards recovery. 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Altshuler LL, Hendrick V, Cohen LS. An update on mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2000;2(6):217-222. doi:10.4088/pcc.v02n0604 National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. PostpartumDepression.org. Postpartum Panic Disorder. Additional Reading Avni-barron O, Wiegartz PS. Issues in treating anxiety disorders in pregnancy. Psychiatric Times. Cohen, L. S., Sichel, D. A., Dimmock, J. A., & Rosenbaum, J. F. Impact of Pregnancy on Panic Disorder: A Case Series. J Clin Psychiatry. 1994 Jul;55(7):284-8. PMID:7915272 Hertzberg T, Wahlbeck K. The impact of pregnancy and puerperium on panic disorder: a review. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1999;20:59–64. doi:10.3109/01674829909075578 Rubinchik SM, Kablinger AS, Gardner JS. Medications for panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder during pregnancy. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;7(3):100-5. doi:10.4088/pcc.v07n0304 By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Panic Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.