Friday, April 15, 2011


My pregnancy has been relatively smooth sailing until this point - no real bumps to complain about. That ended last night. Back when I was in my early 20s, I started to have panic attacks. These were mind-numbing, wipe my brain clean of logic, meltdowns. Over the years, I learned to control them without medical intervention - a combination of deep-breathing, hot baths, distractions, etc. I haven't had a real panic attack again since early in vet school. I thought they were a thing of the past.

Last night, I went to bed around 3:45am (the usual when I have to work, as I am in this weekend starting Friday). I laid down and felt fine. Closed my eyes, drifted off to sleep fairly quickly (within minutes). About 40 minutes later, I shot out of bed, wide awake, a worm of panic burrowing into my chest. Calming myself, I got out of bed, stepped outside for some fresh air, watched some TV. Within about 30 minutes, it felt under control. So I laid back down, drifted off. 45 minutes later, the same - only this time the panic was worse. So, I got up again and did the routine - including a hot soak in the tub, more TV, and the like.

Sometimes my panic attacks wouldn't subside until the sun came up. So, I laid on the couch, patiently waiting for the sun. Once it was up, I curled up in bed with no concerns. 45 minutes later, I was awake, panic threading through my chest like a snake. I rose, starting to feel the flutters of uncontrollable panic. Shortly afterwards, the tears came - and I cried hysterically for about 20 minutes.

This continued through 1:00pm this afternoon, and I had been up for now 24 hours. My hysteria and depression mounted, and I cried constantly between attempting to sleep. Each time, the period of "sleep" was shorter. It was now lasting 20 minutes, before I snapped awake, oriented and panicked.

I finally succumbed and called the doctor/midwife. The sense of panic and despair was becoming overwhelming, and I was starting to fear that something was very, very wrong with me. None of my usual tricks for controlling panic were effective. I had tried them all. I'd even called my mom at the ungodly hour of 8:30am (knowing she would not be up).

After talking to the midwife at length, she gave me a prescription for Ambien to help me sleep. There are no good, safe anti-anxiety medications during pregnancy, so she could not give me anything to help cope with that. However, I knew that just getting some sound sleep would help break the cycle of panic. I was loathe - absolutely LOATHE - to take the Ambien. The thought of any medication affecting the baby worries me terribly. On the other hand, I HAVE to work this weekend - there's no option, since our other doctor is out of town. As a result, some sleep is an absolute must.

She also listened to the baby's heartbeat with the fetal monitor, and everything sounded normal. My blood pressure was 110/70, when it usually runs 95/60 - so a little stress was obviously compounding the panic. The Ambien is not for daily or even weekly usage. It's for desperate situations, which I currently found myself in. With serious trepidation, I took the pill.

Thank God, I was able to sleep from about 4pm-11pm. The panic is gone now, and I am more tired than anything. Hopefully, sleep will not again elude me tonight. I did not enjoy the feeling of the Ambien in my body - I was confused. When I tried to walk (to the bathroom), I was ataxic, almost as if drunk. It was not a pleasant, fuzzy, sleepy feeling (like Benadryl). It is not something that I plan on taking again unless absolutely necessary, it distresses me to have to put anything in my body that baby gets as well.

Ah, hopefully this will not be a repeat performance. We'll see.


Jennifer said...

Hang in there kiddo!!! Sleep always help - and this too will pass. Sounds like you did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I usually only lurk here, and I'm late commenting, but... I had panic attacks during my 2nd pregnancy. One thing that helped me at 3 am when I couldn't sleep was a prenatal yoga & relaxation DVD.

Kate said...

I would be less afraid to take Ativan than ambien...the side effects on the heart/BP are minimal. I just have heard far too many stories of people in ambien blackouts. While I have never had one ( I too took it so I could sleep for work), my husband had a few. We would have entire conversations and he would not remember it. A friend gave me a relaxation CD that uses stereophonic sounds to hypnotize. Works pretty well, but not in acute phase panic attack.

The Homeless Parrot said...

Thank you for the suggestions and thoughts, guys. I am doing much, much better. I was able to sleep with one dose of Ambien, and since then, the panic attacks have subsided. I've been able to sleep well without medical intervention, thank God!

Kate: Benzos such as Ativan, Xanax, and Valium are off limits strictly during pregnancy. Believe me, the thought crossed my mind!