When you’re waiting for medical test results or a potential diagnosis for yourself or your baby, time seems to come to a grinding halt.
You may feel flooded with feelings of anxiety, dread, guilt and worry.
This wait can make you feel numb or it can make you feel like the Tasmanian Devil is living inside your head, running in 100 directions at once, wreaking havoc in your mind.
During that time of limbo when you don’t know what is happening to you or your baby, during a critical time of their development, can make you feel completely helpless.
But there are ways to regain a sense of control.
Before you take the test
Anxiety relief begins even before you take the test! Here's what to do as you're preparing for your ultrasound, bloodwork or any other prenatal testing your doctor has recommended for you.
Fear can cloud memory and affect what you hear your doctor saying.
In fact researchers say that patients retain less than HALF of the information their doctor shares with them by the time the appointment is over.
So write down the facts as your doctor is sharing them with you so you can refer to them later.
Can't write while your doctor is talking? Bring a friend or loved one to take notes for you or ask your doctor if you can record their recommendations using the voice memo app on your phone.
Clarify when and how the doctor will communicate with you
Be really clear with your doctor about how to be in touch to get the fastest response if you have a question or a concern.
- Will you find out online?
- Will the office call you only if the results indicate a problem?
- Will the doctor call you regardless of the results?
- When will you hear back?
- How should you contact the office if you don’t hear back by then?
Knowing what to expect from the doctor can keep you from constantly checking the clock or your email and can ease a lot of the anxiety as you wait.
During the wait
The wait between when you took your test or did your ultrasound and when you get the results can be excruciating. Here's how to make the wait easier on your mind and body.
Be fair with your what ifs
When you’re scared, your mind can become cluttered with the “what-ifs”. But those imaginary scenarios are often the worst of the worst.
Have you prepared yourself for what if everything turns out ok?
Make sure to have balanced thinking so you don’t get stuck in the quicksand of the negative “what ifs”. (Tweet that!)
Assist your other children with an activity or their homework. Reach out to a friend and offer support. Crochet a hat for your neighbor’s newborn baby.
Being helpful to someone else can combat feeling helpless. (Tweet that!)
Focus on what you do know right now
It’s easy to think 100 steps ahead.
But with a high-risk pregnancy, you can only think one step at a time because of how unique every pregnancy, every mom and every baby is. Things can change at any second, for better or worse, so you and your doctor have to take it one step at a time.
Easier said than done right?
Make a list of what you do know right now about the reasons for your test results or the potential diagnosis.
Write down what you do know right now about your pregnancy, including how you're feeling in this very moment.
Write out exactly what you're doing for your baby right now to take care of your baby.
Don't skimp on this one!
Write everything down from the smallest things you do every day - like taking your prenatal vitamin and extra folic acid tablet - to the big things - like being on bed rest. And everything in between!
And then really allow yourself to celebrate yourself and how much you're doing for your baby by helping your body stay pregnant.
Challenge magical thinking
When you find yourself in a helpless situation, it’s easy to become superstitious. We start to believe that we have control over an uncontrollable situation.
“If I only wear this shirt to the doctor everything will be ok.”
“If I don’t watch this TV show the results will turn out well.”
“Good things only happen on days that rain.”
Sometimes those superstitions beliefs can help us cope and sometimes they can backfire.
And as long as you recognize that you’re only sitting on a particular char in the waiting room to ease your anxiety then by all means go for it.
But if you start to believe that some of these thoughts, called magical thoughts, are true and you realize that they’re affecting the choices you make or how you behave (for example you burst into tears because your lucky chair is taken in the waiting room), it’s time to challenge them.
Sticking rigidly to magical thoughts only adds to your stress and anxiety. (Tweet that!)
It is so easy to think about your impending test results and ruminate on what’s happening, when will you hear back and what will the test results mean.
This is even harder to avoid when you are on bedrest and there are even fewer distractions that can keep your mind occupied.
While distractions aren't a great long-term anxiety-relieving strategy they're great for reducing anxiety in the short term.
Playing a game on your phone, calling a friend or even organizing your papers are great ways to stay busy while you pass the time.
In fact, schedule time in your day for these distractions and put reminders to help you stay focused on the task at hand - something fun to keep your mind occupied.
Don’t suck it up!
So many moms feel like they should be strong and not acknowledge how they feel.
The reality is that waiting for a medical test result or a new diagnosis for yourself or your baby during a high-risk pregnancy is a big deal.
It’s not your run of the mill, daily stressor that everyone goes through.