panic disorder and pregnancy

Panic Disorder and Pregnancy

You may be reading this page for help or tips on what to do if you have panic disorder or panic attacks while pregnant. If you are suffering from this, I am sorry; panic is scary and even more so when you are pregnant!

Panic disorder is more common in women than men and is highest in women between 18 and 35 years, prime time for having children.

Research on panic disorder and panic attacks in women who are pregnant is unclear. We don’t understand the relationship between pregnancy and mental health issues. 

Videos to watch to help you understand panic disorder and pregnancy 

Panic Attack Tips

Aware for Panic

Biology of Panic attack

Panic Disorder and Pregnancy : Does it get better or worse?

Although some women who have the panic disorder may experience an increase in panic attacks during pregnancy, others may experience a decrease. In the latter case, we would call pregnancy a protective factor.

Some theories on why it may be protective include pregnancy : 

decreasing the reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system

or changing levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in ways that impact attacks

Another time of concern for women who have panic disorder or panic attacks is the  postpartum period when it seems more likely that women will experience an increase in attacks. Additionally, some women who never experienced panic may have their first panic attack during the postpartum period. We don’t entirely understand why panic attacks happen, but having a baby isn’t all fun and games. It’s scary to be a mom for the first time. It isn’t just hormones and biology that trigger panic attacks. It makes sense that this would be a time where you might experience and increase in symptoms, or that they would show up for the first time. 

How do you help yourself when you are pregnant and having panic attacks?

You and your doctor ( find a good one!) must do a cost-benefit analysis of how to treat these issues.

When you determine what steps you need to do to reduce your panic attacks. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Can you reduce them on your own by learning how to outsmart the panic?
  • Can you help yourself with the assistance of a therapist?
  • Or do you need a therapist AND medication?

You can learn a little about panic on these pages.

You will likely be frightened and scared without knowing how panic tricks you, and that is the climate in which the panic will thrive! Just learning how it works might be enough.

Read about other women’s stories about panic during pregnancy and postpartum panic here.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for PD is effective in controlling panic and preventing relapse. Learn a little about what this treatment looks like here. Mindfulness and other forms of therapy can help too. Watch some videos here.

SSRIs are often the medication of choice, and your doctors will help you weigh the pros and the cons depending on the severity of your panic.

Although you may be scared to take this step, and many treatments are available to avoid it, it’s important to remember that an environment of stress is harmful to your baby, and if you have panic disorder, it could be potentially harmful if other strategies don’t help. 

Panic Disorder and Pregnancy MENTAL HEALTH TIP

Maternal anxiety IS dangerous to your baby

Studies also suggest that pregnant women with severe symptoms of panic disorder are at risk of causing problems to their babies. Some of the worse-case scenarios include placental abruption, fetal distress, decreased nutrition, preterm birth, anemia, and reduced fetal growth. There are various ideas about why this might be the case. They all propose that when you are anxious, you are stressed. That stress is not suitable for your body and harms your baby. It’s important to get help for your panic and don’t ignore it. Many women suffering from panic can get help by learning about how panic works and reaching out to a therapist. 

More tips for you if you are struggling with panic disorder and pregnancy

Care will also be critical after your baby is born. In the postpartum period, relapse of the panic is likely, possibly due to hormonal changes.

  • Both you and your baby will benefit from your symptoms being under control and getting support from therapy, and using those  strategies as well continued ongoing medication use ( if you have chosen this) throughout that period.
  • If you have panic disorder and are taking medication but thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor about a switch or discontinuation of drugs that may be known to harm a fetus.

Dannon, P. N., & Lowengrub, K. (2006). Panic disorder and pregnancy: Challenges of caring for mother and child. Psychiatric Times, 23(3), 10-10,16. Retrieved from

Güler, Ö., Kaya, V., Gezginç, K., Kayhan, F., çiçek, E., Sönmez, Ö., & Uguz, F. (2015). Pregnancy-onset panic disorder: Incidence, comorbidity and associated factors. Noro-Psikyatri Arsivi, 52(3), 216-220. Retrieved from

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.

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