Postpartum onset of panic disorder

Image J Nurs Sch. 1998;30(2):131-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.1998.tb01267.x.


Purpose: To describe the experience of panic disorder in mothers during the postpartum period. The onset of panic disorder during the postpartum period has recently been reported. Clinicians are urged to differentiate between the more widely known presentation of postpartum depression and the newly reported postpartum panic disorder.

Design: Phenomenology. The purposive sample consisted of six women with panic disorder during the postpartum period.

Methods: In 1995, mothers were interviewed regarding their experiences with panic. The verbatim transcripts of these interviews were analyzed using Colaizzi's phenomenological method. In all, 214 statements regarding mothers' experiences of panic were extracted and clustered into six themes.

Findings: Panic during the postpartum period seriously complicated mothers' lives as they struggled to maintain their composure during panic attacks. As a result of recurring panic attacks, negative changes in women's lifestyles ensued stripping them of their self-esteem and leaving them to bear the burden of disappointing not only themselves, but also their families.

Clinical implications: Implications for nursing practice with mothers suffering from postpartum onset of panic disorder can be derived from each one of the six themes. Nurses can help women identify panic triggers to help prevent further panic attacks. Also, nursing interventions can target the guilt mothers experience over repeatedly disappointing themselves and their families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Child Nursing*
  • Panic Disorder* / nursing
  • Panic Disorder* / psychology
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life