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De-Escalating Panic After Discovering an Unexpected Pregnancy

How did your mind and body respond when you first discovered you were unexpectedly pregnant?  Perhaps you experienced heart palpitations, labored breathing, or dizziness.  Maybe you simply felt overwhelmed or extremely anxious.  These are common signs and symptoms of panic.  Panic is a normal reaction to stressful circumstances that can pose a mental health concern in certain situations.  Learning to de-escalate these feelings and physical sensations is critical because our minds and bodies aren’t meant to sustain them over time.

If you’re “freaking out” about an unexpected pregnancy today, Avenue Women’s Center is here for you.  We’re an early pregnancy center with six locations in Chicagoland offering free, confidential services like pregnancy tests, options consultations, and more!  It’s our mission to meet persons (literally and emotionally) in those overwhelming early days of an unexpected pregnancy, equipping them with the tools they need to find peace of mind and discover their best path forward.

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*Depending on factors like symptoms and frequency, Some people may meet the criteria for panic disorder, a mental health disorder characterized by severe, recurring panic attacks.  It’s important to speak with a qualified mental health professional for clarity and treatment if you believe that may be your situation.  Avenue Women’s Center does not provide mental health services, but we offer mental health referrals for licensed professionals in the area. 

Reducing Panic in the Moment

When you’re in a state of panic, it’s natural to feel like your emotions and sensations are outside of your control.  The truth is, there are practical steps you can take to bring your anxiety level down!  Below are a few tips shared by Cleveland Clinic.  These can be useful whether you’re experiencing a panic attack or just dealing with intense stress.

  • Create a script of positive thoughts. The racing, negative thoughts that often come with panic can easily get out of hand and lead to more anxiety.  Remember, the things we tell ourselves hold a lot of power.  When you’re feeling panicked, offer yourself words of encouragement that guard against the negative thoughts, like, “I’m safe.  I’m brave.  These feelings will pass.  I’ve got this.”
  • Control your breathing. Panic triggers rapid breathing, and rapid breathing is your body’s way of telling your brain that you’re in danger.  So, be intentional about breathing slowly and deeply.  It’s amazing how this practice can quickly reduce feelings of stress and bring your body to a calmer state.
  • Identify a healthy distraction. Distract yourself with something comforting that grounds you in the present moment.  It may be a sensory activity, like petting your dog or listening to relaxing music, stretching or going for a walk.  Any healthy practice that redirects your focus will do.  Try to identify these before the panic comes, and think of distractions that would be suitable for different environments.

Reducing Panic Throughout Your Pregnancy

Panic can very easily become a hurdle to good decision-making.  Your pregnancy journey will include the significant choice of which pregnancy option to pursue (abortion, adoption, or parenting), along with other decisions (who to share your pregnancy news with, what resources to look for, etc.).  Important choices are best made from a calm, rational, well-informed point of view.  That’s true for a pregnancy decision and many other challenging decisions you’ll make in life.  You probably know from experience that it’s practically impossible to achieve that kind of head space when your brain is in survival mode, which is why it’s critical to bring your anxiety level down before taking significant steps.  Here are some practical ways to do that during your pregnancy journey!

  • Learn everything you can about your pregnancy, options, and resources. Educating yourself on where you stand with this pregnancy can be extremely empowering, because this can help you safeguard your own health and make informed choices one step at a time.  A solid understanding of all your available options may be key to avoiding regret.
  • Talk to someone. Confiding in someone you trust may come with opportunities to, 1) receive support, 2) hear another perspective, and 3) process your own thoughts and feelings.
  • Take your time. Most people have more time than they realize to educate themselves and consider their own best outcome before becoming ineligible for some of their pregnancy options.  For example, the abortion pill is FDA-approved up to 10 weeks, and it’s common for women to realize they’re pregnant multiple weeks before then.

The importance of guarding against the effects of prolonged panic cannot be understated.  Panic leads to mental distress, health concerns, and often poor decision-making when it goes unaddressed.  And yet, people facing an unexpected pregnancy sometimes allow panic to run rampant and guide their decisions, negatively impacting their futures.  That doesn’t have to be your story!  At Avenue, we’re all about helping persons facing circumstances like yours reclaim their confidence and autonomy.  We genuinely care about you and the challenges you’re facing.  We’re here to offer practical and emotional support to help you thrive!

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The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.