Always trying to learn whatever I can about panic attacks, and always thinking outside of the box, I came upon some interesting information regarding the potential role of prenatal and perinatal happenings in the generation of panic. It’s pretty heady stuff, and I wanted to share it with you.

First of all, let’s get some terminology handled. Prenatal psychology considers the psychological and psychophysiological impact of an individual’s before-birth experience. While perinatal psychology deals with the same impact considerations from the perspective of the birth, and immediately after, experience. The presentation of assorted psychopathology, including panic, due to both prenatal and perinatal experience has been documented in research, as well as in clinical practice. Impacting factors, and some of these are going to come off as really wild, may include:

Prenatal
Immediate-family emotional trauma
An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
Severe maternal emotional trauma
High levels of maternal stress
Maternal substance abuse
A violent outside-of-the-womb environment

Perinatal
A life threatening, or unusually fast or long, labor
The umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
The baby getting stuck upon delivery
Maternal tension during labor and delivery
Administration of an anesthetic or labor-inducing medication – e.g.: oxytocin (Pitocin)
C-section delivery
Forceps or vacuum extraction
Bonding issues with mother and family

And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at what a baby may well be experiencing pre and perinatally. By the way, any of these sound like what occurs during a panic attack?

Breathing difficulty
Feelings of suffocation
Feeling trapped with the inability to escape
Chest tightness
Heart palpitations
Dizziness
Numbness
Physical pain
Hot and/or burning skin sensations
Chills and/or a sensation of being cold
Gastrointestinal distress
Fright
Feelings of loss of control

I find these considerations intriguing and most plausible. Of course prenatal and perinatal trauma can be retained in memory throughout the lifespan. I mean, why wouldn’t it be possible that our components of memory are operational so early on in life? Finally, it’s no secret that seemingly harmless events in the immediate may trigger thoughts and body sensations whose roots are in the distant past. It all makes perfect sense to me.

After doing my research for this section, I went so far as to phone my mother and ask if anything goofy happened before, during, or after my birth adventure. It was really need to know information at the time, though I’m sure my mother believed I was off my rocker.

In closing, I’d ask you to ponder these considrations.
So, prenatal and perinatal psychology and panic - what did you learn and what do you think?

If you’ve ever discussed your prenatal and perinatal experience with either of your parents, or other family members, please note if anything you’ve learned fits with what we’ve reviewed. Also note if such discussions are merited, if they haven’t already taken place.

Author's Bio: 

After a winning bout with panic disorder Bill found his life's passion and work. So he earned his counseling credentials and is doing all he can to lend a hand to those having a tough time.

Bill authored a panic attack education and recovery eworkbook entitled, "Panic! ...and Poetic Justice," which is available on his website. And he now has a blog up and running, which is accessible through his website. Lots of good stuff going on and much more to come.