3 Ways to Combat Anxiety in Pregnancy After Loss
When I became pregnant again 4 months after my stillbirth loss I remember my Doctor saying "you will never again experience a joyful, stress-free pregnancy once you have lost a baby". I suppose it was obvious and I knew I would be nervous but I had no idea how true this statement would be.
The Anxiety and Worry can be Crippling
I haven't worked with anyone yet who is pregnant after loss and can report they are relaxed and enjoying their pregnancy even though 50-80% of women become pregnant again within 12-18 months after their loss. If this is you- know that the anxiety and fear you may be feeling are normal. Usually, your doctor will have a conversation with you prior to becoming pregnant again that will rule out any risk factors or anything that may be associated with a repeat loss so you can have an idea before you go into it what level of risk you are taking.
Most women worry about it happening again or if their body is ready to handle another pregnancy so soon after, You may be anxious about being triggered by some of the same symptoms from your previous pregnancy or details surrounding the delivery that may be upsetting. While you want to usher your new baby into the world in a healthy, successful way, your brain will likely challenge you every step of the way. There is no doubt that you are a warrior once you begin a new pregnancy after loss.
The statistics of loss are the same and are still 1 in 4 miscarriages or 1 in 160 stillbirths. What is different in pregnancy after loss is the level of anxiety, grief, and fear as well as a new layer of grief that can be activated. The idea of moving on with your life without your lost baby along with postpartum hormone shifts and depression may contribute to the distress. This anxiety can even cause the baby to have a low birth weight and the mother can have a hard time bonding with the new baby. Men are also affected by the emotional stress of a subsequent pregnancy. All of this can make for a very difficult time in what should be an exciting and joyful one.
How can you lessen the fear in order to enjoy your pregnancy?
I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word to use here and while I think it's possible I wasn't ever able to let my guard down long enough to experience it myself. Here are some ideas I have for dealing with what is certain to be a range of emotions during the time you are pregnant again following a loss.
1. Have Regular Conversations with your Brain
It is going to take a daily practice of conscious effort for you to turn your thoughts around. Your brain is trained to err to the worst-case scenario and when you have experienced a traumatic event it will do its best to show you evidence of why and how things can go wrong. So what to do when those thoughts creep in? Or when your brain tells you that the same thing will happen again?
You can flip the script. I talk about exactly how to do this in my free video series you can download HERE but the bones of it are to catch the thoughts when they creep in and give them a different twist or a new ending. An example might be if you have a thought that says "The same thing will happen this pregnancy as it did in the last one" you can flip it to "I have every reason to believe that this baby will arrive safely and healthy". Negative self-talk takes a place in so many areas of our lives that we get de-sensitized to it. (I have thunder thighs, I hate my curly hair, I never do anything right...sound familiar?) In general, this practice could help your well-being overall.
You need to create some thought shifts that create hope and positivity and realize the moment you get that feeling or thought that something may be wrong that you have the power to change it right then and there and cultivate hope. Be gentle with yourself and have some compassion when these thoughts show up. Naturally, you are feeling scared and your brain is in overdrive creating all kinds of scenarios, but you can take charge of it with some practice. Exercising, eating well, and being in nature are also great keys to keeping your brain clear of negativity.
2. Have a Great Relationship with Your Doctor
This is a time for having the utmost trust in your healthcare providers. If you don't trust them then please change. This is not a time to have a speck of doubt in your mind that they have the exact same end goal as you do, This was really key for me and I saw through my loss how compassionate and wonderful my healthcare team was. I felt comfortable relying on them to see me through a successful subsequent pregnancy and was so thankful when they offered to see me at any time for a quick heartbeat or sonogram check to put my mind at ease when the anxiety got to be too much.
Ask for what you need. I can't say it enough. I would love for you to do it with your family, friends, and workplace but especially with your doctor while you are pregnant again after loss. They want a great end result as much as you do and if there is something you need to ask them or arrange with them to help ease your mind just ask. You are the only one who knows how you feel and even though you are in an office where they deal with loss they may not have ever experienced it themselves so your input could help others.
3. Find Someone to Talk to
Preferably, someone who has been there and can understand what you're feeling. Your husband or partner may be the most caring person in the world and your mother and sister might be your best friends but this is a time when it may be tempting for people to tell you things like "oh, that won't ever happen again" or "now things are all better because you are having a new baby". This can trigger all kinds of things such as your feelings not being validated for worrying or thoughts that they have forgotten or don't care about the baby you lost.
If ever there was a time for professional help this is it. Working with a coach during your pregnancy can help you create strategies for coping with things that come up during your pregnancy and to keep you from going right to catastrophizing. Going this road alone is hard and even lonelier sometimes than when you were first experiencing loss. The minute you become pregnant it sends a message that you are fully healed and all is OK again which can be the farthest thing from the truth.
Find someone you trust to walk with you through this season and help you build the self-confidence again that is so often lost during a pregnancy loss or stillbirth and help prevent something like the lack of bonding to your new baby when it arrives because you are crippled with fear that you will suffer another loss. If you would like more info on how I can help coach you through your pregnancy and allow you to experience the joy and wonder of this season in your life again, check out my website at https://www.jennifersenn.com and text me to schedule a time for a free support session.