Dealing with Your Complicated Pregnancy

Pregnancy can feel complicated enough, but if you’re facing more complex health issues—either yours or baby’s—you might feel completely overwhelmed. When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, also known as cholestasis. It’s a disease of the liver that comes with discomfort for the pregnant person, but it can also be dangerous for the baby, especially if it goes untreated. I was lucky that my care providers took my symptoms seriously and got me the medication I needed so that my baby and I were safe, but with even more complex pregnancies, things can be really hard. If you’re in the midst of a complex pregnancy, read on for ideas about how to cope.

Medical Support

Hopefully, if you’re experiencing a complicated pregnancy, you feel confident in your care providers. If not, now is the time to advocate for yourself, find a new doctor or midwife, or both. It’s okay to ask questions about what’s going on with your body and your pregnancy and be persistent until you understand. It’s okay to seek a second opinion or switch to someone who you feel is better able to medically support you and your pregnancy. You can switch care providers up until you go into labor, as long as the care provider you are switching to will see you. And when you change providers, you can sign a form to get your previous provider to release your records to your new provider without you having to do anything or have any kind of confrontation. It’s really important to feel safe and confident in your providers in any pregnancy, but especially during a complex one.

Mental Health Support

Complicated pregnancies can come with so much worry, anxiety, and just thoughts that it can really help to seek counseling and medication, if needed. A therapist will help you with coping strategies and can serve as a checkpoint to determine if you are still doing okay as your pregnancy continues or need more extensive support. Mental health professionals, particularly those who specialize in mood during pregnancy and postpartum, are often covered by your health insurance. Your doctor or midwife might have a suggested list of mental health providers who they recommend, which is a good place to start.

Life and Work Support

If you have other kids or work outside the home or both, now is the time to look into your options for help. Can you hire a babysitter or increase the hours your other children spend at childcare? If that option is too expensive, perhaps you have friends or family who could step in and take over caring for your other children. If you have a partner or co-parent, can they do more to support you? Perhaps they could even take family leave in order to take the helm at home.

In terms of work, talk to your human resources department—if you work somewhere that has HR, that is—about what your options are. Sometimes you can start family leave before your baby comes during a complicated pregnancy. And if your pregnancy requires accommodations, such as less time on your feet, your workplace should support you in that.

The last suggestion in this category is easier said than done: delegate as much as you can and with everything else, try to let it go. If grocery delivery or food delivery is in your budget, do that. If you’d like your house to be clean and a housekeeper is a financial option in your family, hire one. On the other hand, getting the help you need can be expensive, so if hiring help won’t work for you, try to ignore the messy house and not worry too much about serving your other kids boxed macaroni and cheese again (I promise they love it).

Take Care of Yourself

Now that you have all of your help in place at home and work, you can focus on self-care. If your care provider signs off on it, find a prenatal yoga class to take. Go on a daily walk by yourself and listen to one of your favorite podcasts. Sit on the couch, drink a glass of cool water, and breathe deeply. Call a friend, watch a beloved TV show, or read a comforting book. If you feel comfortable and it’s financially accessible, get a prenatal massage. No matter what is happening with your pregnancy and your baby, if you take good care of yourself, you’ll be better able to handle whatever comes.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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