A high risk pregnancy isn't easy on you, your body, or your baby. But if you're wondering how high risk pregnancy affects your mental health, I get it. I had a totally normal pregnancy up until the last two days when I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, and my platelets were dropping each day leading up to delivery. It was scary but, at the time, I didn't realize just how frightening it was — only dealing with for a couple of days really made it seem less overwhelming. But as I think about a future pregnancy, I worry about a high risk pregnancy and I worry about how it will affect my mental health.
Let's be honest though — all pregnancies affect your mental health. Whether they make you happier, stressed out, or anxious, there's a definite change going on in your brain. I mean, hello, mom brain is a real thing. But a high risk pregnancy has its own set of mental health effects.
The word "risk" doesn't ever sound nice and helpful when you're pregnant. In fact, it can be incredibly stress-inducing. According to a study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, pregnancy risk was the strongest predictor of depression in pregnant women and also an important predictor of maternal anxiety during pregnancy. The closer women got to the end of their pregnancy, the more anxiety they reported having, too. Another study in the same journal found that anxiety actually decreased between birth and six months postpartum in women with preeclampsia, a high risk condition, but the rate of depression increased during that same time.
Mayo Clinic noted that this is normal, albeit scary. It's normal to feel anxious or scared when you have a high risk pregnancy — you may be worried or stressed before doctor appointments, thinking you'll hear bad news. Because most high risk pregnancies require medical intervention, it can also be stressful if you were hoping for a different kind of birth and now have to throw your plan out the window.
Hand to Hold, a nonprofit organization that supports parents of premature babies, noted that special recommendations for high risk pregnancies, like bed rest, can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, excessive crying, irrational fears, and insomnia. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, a high risk pregnancy can exacerbate those feelings, too.
Pregnancy can be stressful no matter what, but a high risk pregnancy can really make your mental health suffer. If you're struggling with anxiety or depression or worried about the stress taking a toll on your mental health, talk to your doctor. This isn't unheard of and it's nothing to be ashamed of — they can get you the help you need.