Pregnancy is supposed to be a beautiful time. A blissful phase where you can prepare for the arrival of a brand new family member.
Unless you knew ahead of time that this pregnancy was going to be complicated, finding out you’re considered high-risk can be really difficult to accept and cope with.
All of a sudden the image that you had about your pregnancy is shattered.
Being able to continue working and until you got closer to your due date may not be possible.
Bed rest may have forced you to stop working even before you had a chance to train someone to take care for you.
You may not be able to have a baby shower because you may not able to attend or feel in the mood to even want to have one.
What you can expect when you're diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy
There are two aspects to your new reality - the practical and the emotional - that I'll break down for you.
More doctors' appointments.
You'll likely be referred to a perinatologist (also known as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, MFM or high-risk OB) for a consultation if not for care throughout your pregnancy. You'll see your high-risk OB primarily and then follow up with your regular OB as needed.
Seeing a high-risk OB means you may have more frequent doctors' visits than your friends who have typical pregnancies. For women who have a shortening cervix, you are likely to be seen weekly for ultrasounds to measure the length of your cervix.
For women who are having preterm contractions, issues with blood flow to the baby, preeclampsia and many other complications, you may be called in weekly for NST (non-stress tests) which monitor baby's health.
In addition to your high-risk OB, you may be referred to additional specialists depending on the reason for qualifying as high-risk. For example, you may be referred to see a genetics counselor if you have a history of previous losses or there's a suspicion your child has a hereditary or genetic disorder.
Or you may be referred to pediatric specialists such as cardiologists, nephrologists or neurologists if there's suspicion that your baby has a health condition that might need more monitoring in utero.
You might be referred to specialists such as cardiologists, nephrologists or neurologists (or others) if you are experiencing health complications that require more specialized care than what a high-risk OB can provide alone.
Not all high-risk moms are referred to other specialists so if you are not, don't think you have an incomplete care team. If you are worried you're missing out on an expert opinion, bring it up to your high-risk OB and ask for a referral to get a second opinion.
This is a tricky one. Not all women who are high-risk are asked to restrict activities. And not all doctors believe in the value of bed rest. Thus, many women with pregnancy complications end up feeling confused about the right thing to do.
Talk to your high-risk OB and see what they recommend, but also make sure to listen to your body and slow down or stop activities if they're aggravating your complications. Trust me, you'll know if that's happening. Your body will do everything it can to get your attention.
If you're just not sure about whether bed rest is right for you, let's talk. I've guided many women on making this decision for themselves with confidence and without any regret or doubt. Shoot me an email for more info.
It can be a tremendous shock to find out that there’s a health complication for you or your baby. You may feel like you want to go into action mode and do whatever you can to fix it. Or you may feel frozen, completely unsure of what to ask, what to do or even how to feel.
Take deep breaths, slow your racing thoughts and write your questions down. All of these will help you combat shock and bring you to the present so you can talk to your doctor about what’s happening and what to do next.
It's very common to feel guilty for your high risk pregnancy. You’ll wrack your brain trying to think about what you did before to put you at risk for these complications.
Even if you know in your head that there was nothing you could do, you may still try to find a way to blame yourself. For not noticing the signs. For not speaking up sooner. For your body failing you. For leaving your coworkers in a lurch because you had to stop working. And then for worrying about that instead of your baby.
Guilt, if not managed properly can put you at risk for developing depression during your pregnancy. (Tweet that!)
Remind yourself that pregnancy complications can happen to anyone at any time. Learning to accept what you can’t and could not control will help tremendously with lowering your risk for depression during and after pregnancy.
Chaos and helplessness.
One of the most difficult aspects of a high-risk pregnancy for moms is accepting how little is known about what could happen. This could be even harder for you if you like to be in control, thrive on planning and have always been very good at finding solutions to problems you face.
Anxiety rises and without having a good outlet for how to cope, can increase stress in your body and could impact your health and your baby’s health too.
Reframe your pregnancy experience. Focus on what you can control. Recognize your signs of anxiety and make stress-management a daily priority. (Tweet that!)
Anger and resentment.
When see other moms walking around, going to work, posting pictures of their maternity shoot or other things that you can’t do but wish you could you might roll your eyes and think there’s no way they understand how easy they have it.
You might even hate them a little bit.
Resentment is a sign of grief. It's okay to grieve the loss of your ideal pregnancy, your ideal health or your baby's ideal health. Allow yourself to acknowledge it and feel it to release the tension your body holds on to with unprocessed grief.
With all of the new medical terminology that's being thrown at you you may feel your head is spinning in a million different directions. This confusion may throw you for a loop, leading you to blame yourself for not being able to think straight when you’ve done much more complicated things with much more ease prior to your pregnancy.
Cut the negative self-talk and the self-blame. This will only add to your stress, which is not good for you or your baby. Remind yourself of all of your strengths that have led you to being successful in other areas of your life. Use those skills to help you navigate this new world of pregnancy complications and get you the answers you need.
You may feel sad for yourself. For your partner. For your baby. It’s all ok. You are going through something that very few people truly understand and that can leave you feeling very lonely which can also lead to the sadness.
Acknowledge and allow yourself to feel the sadness. Talk to someone who can understand what you’re going through. But also, be mindful of when sadness may be turning into depression and be sure to reach out to a trusted professional who can help you cope with the ups and downs of a high-risk pregnancy.
You will question everything even more than before.
Am I eating enough? Am I standing too much? Was it a good idea to try to respond to those emails instead of watching a movie? Am I making the right decisions for my baby?
You will feel compelled to Google. Some days you may feel like you want to learn everything that you can about your condition. And other days you're going to want to pretend that this is not happening. Both of those are completely understandable reactions.
Be kind to yourself. In the midst of so many unknowns, and when you’re terrified about what could happen to your baby, it’s only natural you’d question yourself and every move you make. Build up your confidence and remind yourself that you, more than anyone else, knows your body and your baby best.
You will cherish every single, tiny milestone far more than you would have had you had a typical pregnancy. Things that you would have taken for granted you no longer will and it's given you an entirely new perspective that's helping you get through everyday.
Celebrate every single milestone. Whether it’s an ultrasound showing you are “stable” to making it to the third trimester, find a way to honor every step you’ve taken to protect your baby. You deserve it.
It's a lot to process.
Between all the decisions you have to make and all of the practical and emotional changes that suddenly happen as you fight to keep this baby cooking as long as possible, it can feel really overwhelming.
Remember that your body will guide you. Trust your body's signals and speak up when you feel like something is wrong. Now more than ever, your baby needs you to ask questions, push back if something feels wrong and surround yourself with the most supportive team for your physical and emotional needs.
If you're feeling really stressed by this new development, register for my free webinar that's meant specifically for high-risk moms to help them overcome fear and anxiety so they can stay pregnant as long as possible...even if they have complications.
You are not alone in this. Take it one day, one step at a time. You can do this.