Having a baby is a beautiful thing — but it can also be quite traumatic. I don't say that to take away from the resulting tiny miracle, but to emphasize that it's not uncommon to feel a little rattled by it all. That feeling can multiply for women who navigated a high-risk pregnancy, and it's no surprise. With complications that make it more likely you or your baby will have health problems, it would cause anyone to feel uneasy. But if you are seeking tips for how to handle anxiety after a high-risk pregnancy, then experts say they can help.
"Pregnancy can make even the sanest of us insane," Dr. Jaime Knopman, co-founder of TrulyMD, and director at New York's Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, tells Romper. "While passing each hurdle — first heartbeat check, genetic screening, anatomy scan — brings some comfort, looking forward to what comes next can be frightening. Additionally, if there are underlying maternal or fetal issues that may complicate the pregnancy and the delivery, things can get even scarier." And all of this can be compounded even more if you've previously had a high-risk pregnancy.
In order to navigate anxious feelings, Dr. Allison Hill, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way, tells Romper in an email interview that stress reduction should be an integral part of prenatal and postpartum care.
"Doctors are reluctant to emphasize the link between stress and poor pregnancy outcomes because it is hard to determine exactly how much stress is too much," Hill says. "They worry that the discussion itself may lead women to experience anxiety about hurting their babies. But asking about stress may have as much significance as measuring blood pressure or listening to the baby’s heart rate in assuring a good outcome for both the woman and her fetus."
Stress is inevitable. Discussing the topic of stress has to be a part of routine prenatal visits. OB-GYNs have to initiate the conversation since pregnant women are often embarrassed and not honest in discussing how stress is affecting their lives. Since stress has such a negative impact on the health of the growing baby, the conversation has to be a part of prenatal care during the entire pregnancy and the postpartum period as well.
Hill says stress-reduction programs offering education, more frequent prenatal visits, and psychological support, are shown to reduce the rate of preterm births by 19 percent. For pregnant and postpartum women, some simple strategies to cope with or reduce stress, such as yoga, exercise, support groups, and prenatal education, may help. Talking about it with a partner, doctor, or friends, modifying your work schedule, and seeing a therapist can also be effective. "The sources of stress must be carefully identified and actions taken to cope with or reduce it," Hill says.
Knopman agrees, adding that support groups, and/or medication might also help. "Make sure to also voice your feelings with your OB-GYN so he or she can get you hooked into the right resources," she says.
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