Ever since you were diagnosed with a pregnancy complication, you have become the queen of “what ifs”.
Day or night, no matter what you’re doing, there’s a little voice in the back of your head always running through a list of things that could go wrong.
What if I see blood the next time I use the bathroom?
What if I don’t notice when I lose my mucus plug?
What if these contractions aren’t Braxton Hicks? What if something happens in the middle of the night?
What if I get an infection and have to deliver early?
It just goes on and on, without any reprieve. You’re scared. You’re not just afraid of something possibly going wrong. You’re afraid because something has already gone wrong and you’re terrified something worse could happen.
So you worry.
This worry causes many women to freeze.
You might feel so overwhelmed with fear and worry that it feels like you’re on a rocking boat that’s swaying vigorously from side to side. You’re holding on as hard as you can and desperately hoping you can find stable ground.
In a situation that feels so volatile, so uncontrollable and so scary, the last thing you want to do is try something new for fear it could make your situation worse. It's only natural.
Life isn’t like one of those Hollywood action films where the main character jumps through rings of fire and swings on electric wires, all while running away from zombies and trying to crack the code to a never-been-used-before device that will annihilate said zombies.
No. Real life is not like that.
In real life, you don’t take risks like that. This is especially true if you have a high-risk pregnancy when your life or your baby’s life are at stake. You worry about everything that can go wrong, you do only what is absolutely necessary, and hope you make it to the next day. And nothing more.
However, this passive approach to your high-risk pregnancy leaves you as a passenger and fear in the driver’s seat. (Tweet that!)
The helplessness that comes with knowing something has gone wrong during your pregnancy only becomes amplified when you approach your pregnancy with this minimalist survival attitude.
That helplessness increases anxiety and stress, and can set the foundation for prenatal and postnatal depression.
This is not only a problem for you but high levels of stress, anxiety and depression during pregnancy have been linked to an increased risk of preterm birth, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid. (Tweet that!)
The solution is to get back in control of your pregnancy.
I firmly believe that the last thing a woman needs during a high-risk pregnancy is MORE things to worry about and more things to do. You have so much on your mind and so much of your energy is being spent on trying to stay pregnant.
You don’t need to do more things. What you need is to do the right things.
Realize what efforts you’re making aren’t actually helping you stay pregnant, and in fact, may be negatively impacting your pregnancy. Switch those activities out for ones that will improve the overall health of your pregnancy.
For example, do you research online all day trying to understand your medical complication in a language that makes sense to you?
Many women believe researching helps them feel more in control. In fact, it leaves them feeling even more helpless and anxious because of all of the conflicting information available online.
Alternatives that are actually more impactful to help you become a better advocate for yourself and your baby while lowering your anxiety include Googling smart and receiving personalized support instead of generic Dr. Google advice to best understand what’s going on.
Similarly, it’s important to take the energy you’re spending trying to brace yourself for the worst, and use that energy to help you beat odds so you can do everything in your power to give your baby a fighting chance at a healthy start to life.
Whether that’s staying pregnant one day longer than your doctor thinks you can or 3 months longer than medical research says is possible, isn’t it worth a shot to try?
The key to helping you beat the odds is lowering stress during your pregnancy.
It’s not pseudoscience or just a personal theory of mine.
There is scientific evidence that shows stress management can help women lower their risk of additional complications as well as preterm delivery and long term health problems for the baby after birth.
First, you have to be honest with yourself about what stress symptoms you’re exhibiting (Signs of stress can be different during pregnancy than when you are not pregnant).
Then, and only then, can you make efforts to lower your stress so you can have a healthier pregnancy for your baby.
If you’re ready to stop feeling like you’re tied to the back of a speed boat during your pregnancy and are ready to get behind the steering wheel, no matter how many waves are coming your way, then managing your stress with simple but powerful strategies is your next step.
How do you actually do this?
Some women will find general activities like meditation apps, pre-made guided visualizations and self-paced journaling to be helpful at lowering their pregnancy-related stress symptoms.
But if you have tried everything you can think of and you’re still feeling teary, having trouble sleeping or you cannot control your preterm contractions, personalized support is likely best for you.
There are no medical interventions that have a 100% success rate at helping you carry a healthy pregnancy to term.
Everything your doctor is recommending to manage your pregnancy helps increase your chances of a healthier pregnancy so you can have a healthier baby as close to term as possible.
What are you doing to lower your stress and anxiety today? How is it working for you? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!