For some, experiencing pregnancy complications can be a traumatic event - even if you deliver a healthy, full-term baby. For others, a high-risk pregnancy can result in even scarier experiences such as health complications for baby, loss or a NICU stay.
Needless to say, getting pregnant after a high-risk pregnancy can bring up strong feelings of anxiety, ambivalence and fear. You don't want to repeat the past, but you also don't feel done growing your family.
What to do when you're ready to conceive again
Here are the 4 steps I strongly recommend you take before you are ready to begin trying to conceive after you've already been through a high-risk pregnancy.
Talk to your partner
Before you make any decisions about moving forward, have an honest conversation with your partner about how they're feeling. Though it was your body that experienced the health complications, delivery and postpartum healing last time, there is a unique type of trauma partners experience during a high-risk pregnancy that's enhanced by the helplessness of being the one "on the outside".
Talk to each other about the experience you've had and where you feel you are now after it's over. Does it feel over to both of you? You'd be surprised how often my clients realize it doesn't yet feel over for their partners when my clients are ready to move forward.
Do you both feel ready for the time, financial and emotional a future pregnancy could require? For example, do you have residual health issues that need to be addressed? Does your baby have medical complications that are taking one or both of your time and energy? Do either or both of you need some time to focus on career responsibilities or increase income before getting pregnant again?
Do either of you have hesitations about moving on? The fear of the past repeating itself is very real. While you don't want to make decisions from a place of fear, you do want to acknowledge it. Fear is one of those emotions that doesn't respond well to being ignored. Look the other way and it just gets louder.
Pregnancy after a high-risk pregnancy may be filled with anxiety, worry and overwhelm. Having strong support from your partner has been shown to improve the health of the pregnancy by reducing physiological stress markers. If you're wanting to do everything you can to have a healthy pregnancy and reduce your risk of pregnancy complications and/or preterm birth in your future pregnancy, it's imperative you begin here.
What happens if my partner isn't ready or doesn't want to but I really want another baby?
That's a question I hear all the time. I'm ready to try again but s/he is too scared or doesn't want to. This goes back to the very first point I made earlier, which is addressing and identifying the trauma your partner is holding on to. My clients have found it helpful to discuss the experiences from their partner's point of view.
What did they say? What did they hear? What do they remember? What keeps them up at night? What are they most worried about going forward?
Take time to understand the situation from your partner's lens. You both went through something together, but you both experienced it from two completely different perspectives. Approach this conversation with curiosity and you'll be amazed what you learn about each other. The more you understand each other, the easier it will be to make a joint decision about when and how to move forward.
Make a preconception appointment
I recommend making this appointment with a high-risk OB and doing it after you've discussed with your partner and have established yourselves on the same page as: yes we're both ready to move forward. You may have many unanswered questions, such as when or how but as long as you're both on the same page that you do want to try again, those questions will be answered eventually.
For some couples, this appointment is made you or your partner is fully ready to make that decision. Sometimes you or your partner (or both of you) need more information before you can make a decision about when or if you want to try again.
Enter this appointment as an "investigator" only there to collect data. The goal of this appointment should be to review what you went through, gain better clarity on why it happened and create a rough treatment plan on what to do going forward to reduce your risk of the same (or worse) happening again.
Download my free "What Should I Ask My Doctor?" checklist of questions to guide your conversation with your perinatologist at this pre-conception appointment.