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Coping with a High-Risk Pregnancy
If you’ve recently been diagnosed as having a high-risk pregnancy, you’re likely to be experiencing a range of emotions. Your dream of the “perfect” pregnancy may be overshadowed by legitimate concerns about the extra testing, monitoring and medical interventions that now mark your pregnancy.

Here’s an overview of many of the normal feelings you may be experiencing.

Disappointment. You may need to limit certain activities and stay on bed rest. These restrictions can be tough to follow and can contribute to a sense of loss. You may feel like you’re missing out on a “normal” pregnancy.

Anger and resentment. Many women feel bitter about the extra sacrifices they need to make. They resent those who seem to breeze through pregnancy without problems. You may be angry with your doctor for labeling your pregnancy high risk or having you succumb to more interventions than you’d like. Perhaps it feels especially unfair that your partner can continue to engage in activities without restrictions, while you bear the brunt of responsibility for your developing baby.

Fear. Most pregnant women feel some anxiety about their pregnancy even when things appear to be progressing normally. When you learn that your pregnancy is at risk for complications, it’s hard not to worry even more. Some women have trouble sleeping or have vivid nightmares.

Helplessness. Even when you’re doing everything you possibly can to ensure a healthy pregnancy, there are some things out of your control. This can be a frustrating realization.

Guilt. You may feel some level of responsibility for your high-risk situation. You may wonder whether any of your own behaviors contributed to your current state.

It’s hard to avoid some of these feelings. It may help to realize you are not alone. Many women experience complications and disturbing emotions during their pregnancies. While these feelings are common, it’s important to get help during this stressful time. Here are a few suggestions:

Stay connected. Keep in touch with supportive friends and family members. Share your feelings with your husband or partner, who may be experiencing a similar range of emotions.

Get informed. It’s helpful to get clarity from your health care provider about your condition and prognosis. You may have already researched your condition, but realize that any general information you obtained from a book or the Internet may not be specific to your situation.

Reduce your stress. Facing a high-risk pregnancy can increase stress levels. There are many ways to reduce stress including hypnotherapy, prenatal massage and meditation. You may have your own tried-and-true method of relieving stress. This is a good time to indulge yourself.

Find support. You may need more ongoing support than your health provider can offer. An experienced therapist or counselor can be an important resource. You may also find it helpful to talk with other mothers facing a similar situation. Look for a support group in your own area or connect with others through online support groups. One national resource for high-risk pregnancies is Sidelines National High Risk Pregnancy Support Network (www.sidelines.org).

Finally, remember that most high-risk pregnancies have successful outcomes. As you await the birth of your baby, you owe it to yourself to ease your mind.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist