Impact of panic attack in pregnancy

Panic is a feeling of fear about something which creates uneasiness. During pregnancy, such a panic condition is quite normal for every prospective mother. But the intensity of this feeling may mild to severe. The uncontrolled feeling of fear, which is frightening is known as a panic attack.

panic attack in pregnancy: Pic pregnant lady

Pregnancy-related anxiety often raises a guilty feeling to a pregnant woman. People surround her to expect she must be happy during the gestational period. But anxiety is a mental condition, which can arise due to various reasons may be due to hormonal changes or physical changes. Therefore, a panic attack during pregnancy does not indicate the weakness of a prospective mother. Pregnancy-related anxiousness is a self-limited condition and goes after child delivery.   

Symptoms and causes of a pregnancy-related panic attack

The onset of a panic attack during pregnancy is sudden and occurs without any apparent reason. The duration of the panic attack varies from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. The period of a panic attack can be very frightening but usually does not cause a fatal outcome. The symptoms associated with a panic attack are as follows:

  • Significant increase in heartbeat
  • The feeling of fear of dying
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme perspiration
  • Blackout
  • Unconsciousness
  • Limbs are shaking
  • Tingling sensation
  • Churning in stomach

The reason for panic attack arises due to anxiety during pregnancy. Some of the common causes of anxiety during pregnancy include family history and panic attacks, previous history of panic attacks of the affected mother, mental or physical trauma, abuse, drug addiction, depression, chronic ill health, relationship issues, financial crisis, etc.    

A panic attack usually when a person develops an overwhelming and debilitating fear about something. Most pregnant women feel fear to give birth, but they eager to have their child. When severe fear of childbirth affects their decision making is termed as Tokophobia. Traumatic birthing experience, miscarriage, death of newborns can cause childbirth fear. This type of phobia usually generates due to post-traumatic stress disorders. Some women also have a needle phobia, which turns to a panic attack during an essential blood test required to do during pregnancy.

Impact of Maternal panic attack on neonates

The primary concern of the panic attack is whether this stressful condition will affect the newborn. Normally, anxiety does not affect offspring development if the patient is under treatment. Pregnant women should discuss both mental and physical health-related issues with their doctors. The right management help to overcome the condition and childbirth will be smooth. But untreated severe anxiety and frequent panic attacks lead to biological, mental, and behavioral health effects on a newborn.

  • Low-birth weight, height, and head circumference are significant with maternal anxiety.
  • Maternal anxiety also has a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of the children. Some of the significant mental health problems cause impaired cognitive development, lack of concentration, and hyperactivity. Experts have found the link between increased stress hormone level inducing anxiety and alteration of cognitive changes and language developmental issues.  
  • Some behavioral issues in the neonatal period like prolong crying, restlessness, irritability habits also have a link with pregnancy-related panic issues. The behavioral issue even may continue with the later half of life, such as weak interaction, stressful reactions to face life events, etc.
  • Severe maternal anxiety hurts the growth and development of the children’s nervous system. 
  • Some chronic health problem may occur in children and which may continue to their adulthood due to frequent maternal panic attack during pregnancy. Shortness of breathing, asthma, rash, the cardiac problem in adulthood are common findings of children born in maternal phobic conditions. Experts suggested that increasing the Hypothalamic–Pituitary –Adrenal axis activity in response to high maternal anxiety leads to an endocrinal problem in children. Neonatal diabetes may be one of the outcomes of endocrinal disorders.    
  • Congenital abnormalities like cleft lip and cleft palate are also associated with severe maternal anxiety and panic attacks. 


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