Did you know that about 10% of all pregnant women are referred to a Maternal Fetal Medicine office at some point in their pregnancy?
When I was pregnant with my fourth baby, I was hospitalized for preterm labor. I was frightened and confused, not to mention inconvenienced! Even if you know a lot about pregnancy (like me) and you’ve done your homework (like me), even if you’re a medical professional (like me) – when something happens to you or your baby, it seems brand new.
Sometimes there’s a concern about your blood pressure, or your health, or there’s a concern about your baby. You can start to feel so overwhelmed that you won’t remember much of our first visit.
So today’s episode is a special one. It is a letter from my heart to yours, about what to do when something unexpected happens with your pregnancy. In this post I’m sharing a few helpful tips about how to manage news like this, how to respond, and mostly to let you know that you’re not alone.
This post is not really about the possible problem with your baby; it’s about the overwhelm that you will feel. There is only so much information someone can process in a single visit, especially if the conversation starts with ‘Your baby has an abnormality.’
Watch this week’s video and read below to get some encouragement as well as practical advice about what to do when you are told that you or your baby may have a problem.
I have seen hundreds of babies with birth defects, but you haven’t. This is brand new to you. Ask me to repeat information as often as you need, so that you can begin to understand what is happening. I can try to describe the abnormality in a different way. I can draw pictures or point to areas of the ultrasound images. I can even just stop talking so that you can breathe for a few minutes.
Make a follow up appointment
Sometimes your brain simply can’t absorb any more information, especially when you’re faced with something completely outside your experience. I get it. This is big stuff, and you may feel devastated. Make another appointment to come back and talk again. Bring anyone you want with you, especially people that will ask good questions and be supportive.
Ask for homework
There are good websites and articles concerning most birth defects. We can provide written information and links to reputable sites, so that you can read about this at home, when you have more time. There are also support organizations for many fetal problems and birth defects, and we can put you in touch with them. We can even connect you with other parents who have had a similarly affected child. It can be enormously comforting to talk to a mom who has experienced what you are going through.
Now you can start to move forward, little by little. Sometimes pregnancy isn’t smooth and fun. Sometimes it’s hard and unfair.
Many of my patients are having to deal with more than a typical pregnant woman should. But through this tough situation, you will find that you are smarter and stronger than you knew. Trust that you will learn what you need to know about the problem and make the right decisions for your baby.
It’s okay to feel scared, angry, even guilty. Go home and get some rest. Cry, complain, and sleep some. When you’re ready to talk again, we’ll be here.
Breathe! You’ve got this.