Health conditions

Panic disorder – emotional health for new parents

You might feel a bit of panic when you’re pregnant or have just had a baby. However, it is not healthy to feel panic all the time.

If you experience sudden and repeated panic attacks, you may be diagnosed with panic disorder.

If you have panic disorder, you may worry about having more panic attacks. Your usual behaviour may also change because of having the attacks.

Symptoms of panic may include:

  • feeling short of breath
  • a racing heart
  • feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • trembling or shaking
  • a tight feeling in the chest
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • a feeling of anxiety or dread
  • a tingling feeling in hands or feet
  • chills
  • a fear of losing control or dying.

Panic disorder may be experienced by 1 to 3 per cent of women when they are pregnant or after they have had a baby. Mothers with panic disorder may:

  • be fearful of the birth (sometimes because of a past loss)
  • be anxious about parenting and the safety or health of the baby
  • have panic attacks at the thought of medical procedures (like emergency caesarean section)
  • be fearful of being alone with the baby – perhaps even fearful of having a panic attack at this time.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor, obstetrician, child health nurse or midwife
  • Talk to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Phone the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline on 1800 882 436
  • Phone the Mental Health Emergency Response Line – Perth metro 1300 55 788 or Peel 1800 676 822
  • Phone Rural Link, an after-hours mental health phone service for rural communities, on 1800 552 002
  • Phone the Post and Antenatal Depression Association helpline on 1300 726 306 (9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday)
  • Phone the Parenting Line on 1800 654 432
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222

Women and Newborn Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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