“It looks like you have some conditions that make this a high-risk pregnancy.” That is not a sentence anyone is hoping to hear while likely in an already vulnerable state. And though hearing these words might make you feel even more beholden to the medical system and whatever decisions they will be making, empowering yourself to do the opposite is critical. You may need to trust the clinical judgment of your health care team, but there are several things you can do throughout your pregnancy and leading up to labor and delivery to ensure that you are a part of the decision-making team and not just a bystander.
Manage the Risks
Often, the factors that contribute to a high-risk pregnancy are preexisting factors that can be influenced. For example, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, take extra care to keep the condition under control, and stay in close communication with your regular doctor.
If you have had complications in previous pregnancies such as preterm birth or preeclampsia, you can stay vigilant for any signs that they are occurring again. You may also be able to take steps to reduce your risk of those conditions coming back. For example, taking progesterone has been shown to reduce future risk of spontaneous preterm birth. In addition, aspirin has been shown to prevent a recurrence of preeclampsia, especially in early pregnancy.
Working with your health care team to identify things you can do to reduce your preexisting risks will also help you feel in control of your pregnancy.
Write a Birth Plan
You may be thinking, “What’s the point of writing a plan if I can’t have the ideal birth I want anyway?” But, sitting down with your health care team to talk through how you would like to see the birth progress can help them to make decisions in the heat of the moment that align with your wishes. Here are a few items to consider:
- Maybe you know you’ll eventually have to be induced, but what are your options for timing or dosage?
- When will you jointly make the call to have a C-section?
- Can you still incorporate “kangaroo care” or skin-to-skin touching with your baby on your chest even with a C-section?
These are all important questions that can help your doctor to guide your care and also help you to feel like you know what to expect. This also helps to relieve the stress on your mental health. Setting up contingencies within your plan can also help you feel like there are options for different scenarios that you have already thought through ahead of time. This will help to avoid the feeling that things are going off the rails if the first option doesn’t work out.
Advocate for Yourself
Make sure you feel comfortable with your obstetrician and team at the beginning of your pregnancy. You want to know that your provider is in your corner with your best interests in mind at all stages. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask for different options if something goes against your wishes. You want to know what tests or procedures are necessary for high-risk pregnancies and what to expect as far as your appointment schedule so you can plan around it where needed.
There are plenty of opportunities for unexpected bumps in the road for any pregnancy, so arming yourself with the most information can keep you from feeling out of control. Trusting your health care team and knowing what lies ahead in a complex or high-risk pregnancy will help you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat instead of arriving at appointments unsure of what comes next.
If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, ease the stress on your mental health. Work with Arizona Perinatal services specialists at Valley Perinatal Services to co-manage your care with your obstetric team. You or your physician can reach us via our online form or by phone at (480) 756-6000.