One in 8 babies are born premature (before 37 weeks). They suffer from numerous problems including: inability or difficulty breathing, feeding/growth issues, bleeding into the brain, an eye disease which can cause blindness, neurologic disabilities, or hearing problems.
A high-risk pregnancy is a time of enormous stress, fear, unknowns, even isolation, depression, and a disruption of your entire life. Lifting a simple load of laundry, or other children, are now huge no-no’s. Here are some tips to coping, managing, and hopefully thriving during this (not so fun) journey to parenthood:
Dealing With the “Medical Stuff”
- Understand your risk factors. The number one risk for having a premature a baby is having had a prior early birth. Other risk factors include: smoking/drinking/illicit drug use, cervical/womb abnormalities, carrying multiples, being a black woman, being obese or very skinny, conceiving through IVF, having placental issues, poor nutrition, or certain chronic conditions (like diabetes or high blood pressure). Unfortunately, many women who have their babies early have no known risk factors.
- Educate yourself in order to become a key member of your medical team and an advocate for you and your baby. Become knowledge about your situation/condition only to minimize additional stress and fear.
- If you’re not 100% satisfied with your provider or if you’re struggling to get answers- get a second opinion. They should be there for you, to explain what to expect, as well as to provide support during this difficult time. Since high-risk women spend so much time at the doctor’s office, it’s extremely important that you not only have a provider who is knowledgeable about your condition, but one who you also mesh well with.
- Pay attention to your body and don’t feel bad about calling to ask questions if anything seems off. You are doing the most important ‘job’ …baking that baby!
- Time to lower your standards. Dirty toilets, prepackaged foods, unorganized cabinets, tumbleweeds blowing down the hallway…all OK.
- It’s alright to be upset, to cry, to even morn the loss of the dream of having a ‘perfect’ pregnancy. Go ahead…get upset, yell, cry, and freak out. Get it all out of your system. Then move on so you can focus on staying positive and hopeful.
- Let go of any guilt. Stress and guilt will not help you or the baby growing inside! This is not your fault.
- Seek support from others who’ve been there. Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to speak up to family and friends to tell them what you need (even if it’s help with the laundry or with childcare). There are also various foundations which can provide much needed support, such as Sideline National High Risk Pregnancy Support Network (www.sidelines.org).
- A tough pregnancy can lead to tension in even the best of relationships. The stress, fear, constant worrying, no sex…yikes. Make time for each other. Just because your on ‘pelvic rest’, get creative and get intimate with daddy-to-be.
- Don’t slack on you. Get dressed, do your make up and fix your hair. Even if you feel down in the dumps, looking your best can help trick you into a better frame of mind.
- You MUST try to enjoy your pregnancy. I can’t stress this enough. Though you probably can’t do all the things that most pregnant women can do, you just have to adjust. If you can’t go to the mall and physically shop to pick out baby things, then shop online. Go ahead and dream about what baby looks like; what you’ll do as a family. Just because you’re on bed rest or you have this or that restriction, doesn’t mean you can’t savor your body changes. Take pictures, do a belly cast, show your new prego self off to friends and family.
- High-risk pregnancy doesn’t always equal a high-risk birth. Therefore, don’t bail on your dream birth just because you’re having a tough pregnancy.
Hang in there ladies! It may seem like this period of your life will last forever, but when you look back, it will seem like a million years ago and well worth the trouble.
Kelly Whitehead is a scientist-mom who lost a preemie and had two high-risk pregnancies. She wrote High-Risk Pregnancy- Why Me? Understanding and Managing a Potential Preterm Pregnancy (www.hrpwhyme.com) to help others. This medical/emotional guide provides the latest medical research and treatments from top experts, along with emotional reassurance, advice, tips, stories and hope.