My pregnancy had been really difficult from the start, beginning with finding out about my first health complication before I found out I was pregnant.
After I was recommended to limit my activity 6 weeks into my pregnancy, I started accumulating pregnancy complications like I hoard Thin Mints. At first, I took it in stride. I needed IVF to get pregnant, I had endometriosis and scar tissue gluing organs to places they shouldn’t be, so I wasn’t surprised that the pregnancy was being difficult.
But after complication 3, 4, 5 in less than one trimester and then developing 3 more in the two weeks of my pregnancy….it all became extremely overwhelming and I eventually became too exhausted to advocate for myself. (I share the gigantic health repercussions of came with that exhaustion on episode 40 of Delivering Miracles®.)
While I would never wish a high-risk pregnancy on anyone, it was a tremendous learning experience for me.
Here are 3 of my biggest takeaways after experiencing a very high-risk pregnancy.
“Wait and see” does not mean do nothing.
I loved that my MFMs and my OB were not medication-obsessed doctors. They were very conscientious and meticulous about when to recommend additional medications, treatments or interventions of any kind. I wholeheartedly agreed that we shouldn’t do something if we weren’t 100% sure it was needed.
That said, what I heard very frequently when I asked, “What do we do now?” or "What can we do to make it better?" is “Let’s wait and see.”
That advice, while I respected it and appreciated it, made it seem like there was nothing to be done other than sit on my hands and wait for something worse to happen. It’s not their fault they said this because based on their medical training and expertise this really was just a waiting game.
But I can tell you 100% without a doubt that there is so much that you can do even when your doctor wants to wait and see.
* Managing your stress is the easiest and fastest way to effectively manage your pregnancy complications at home.
* Sleeping better helps you have a healthier pregnancy and can lower your risk of preterm birth
* Boosting your mood is critical to helping you have a healthy pregnancy no matter what complications you’re facing.
You have to advocate for yourself even if you have an amazing medical team.
One of the biggest mistakes patients make (especially pregnant women) is assuming that a nice doctor is the right doctor for you. Nope! Nice isn't good enough in this case. Believing this discourages women from speaking up, asking questions or even doing their own research for fear that they may hurt their doctor’s feelings for challenging their recommendations.
The reality is that no one loves your baby as much as you do. Not one person on this planet. Not even your incredibly sweet OB who gave you her personal cell phone number to call any time.
You’ve built up a team to help you through your high-risk pregnancy but YOU are the leader of that team. You get to decide who’s on it, for how long and when to find someone new to add to that team when the current team members aren’t sufficient.
So how do you advocate for yourself?
Ask the questions you’re scared to ask.
Prepare yourself for each appointment to make the most of the few minutes you have with your doctor
Share your doubts if your doctor’s recommendation doesn’t sound or feel right to you
Seek additional medical opinions to make sure you feel 100% confident in your prenatal care
Make decisions from a place of confidence and clarity, not fear and confusion (yes this is possible even during a medical emergency!)
Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, speak up until someone takes you seriously.
You are more than a statistic
Have a high-risk pregnancy means your doctor has to tell you a lot of scary numbers: your chance of making it to term, risks of a particular procedure, chances of delivering preterm, chances your baby may not survive, etc.
These are important numbers to pay attention to because they will guide the decisions you make. But they will NOT be, nor should they be, the only factors that guide whatever decision you make with your doctor about your pregnancy.
I’m going to share with you what comforted me when I was on hospital bed rest, in the periviable stage (before 24 weeks), and hearing all kinds of horrible numbers about my son’s chance at survival and long term medical complications:
If the statistics are not 100% or 0%, then there is always hope you can beat the odds.
That is literally what I would say to myself and my husband after every meeting with the neonatologist or my MFM. Statistics are averages. They tell you about the general likelihood of what happens most often to most people in a similar situation to yours.
Statistcs do NOT predict your future. (Tweet that!)
Listen to your doctor, take those numbers seriously, but remember that hope and faith have been the foundation for countless medical miracles. You can be one of them.
Give yourself permission to have more control during your pregnancy
It’s easy to feel caught up in the tornado of reality when you have a high-risk pregnancy. With very real fears about very real dangers to you and your baby, it’s can be difficult to remember how much power and control you do still have in this situation...how you are not just being taken for a ride but can actually impact the direction the ride goes.
You are stronger than you think and more resilient than you feel. I believe in you.
Despite being so strong, you may not want to go through the rest of your pregnancy alone.
You may feel more comfortable having an expert guide you through the ups and downs, the uncertainties and fears so you can not only feel more confident, but can learn to manage your complications and give your baby a strong start to life.