Going through a high-risk pregnancy can be nerve-racking. You might be stressed out for all sorts of reasons. You might feel like your body is failing both you and your child. You might feel helpless and maybe hopeless.
Parijat Deshpande can relate.
Five years ago, she experienced a very high-risk pregnancy, with eight complications, 16 weeks of bed rest at home and 2 weeks of strict bed rest in the hospital. Today, she’s a mind-body wellness counselor who helps women in high-risk pregnancies to lower their stress, strengthen their overall wellness and have a healthier, safer pregnancy. She’s also the bestselling author of the groundbreaking book Pregnancy Brain: A Mind-Body Approach to Stress Management During a High-Risk Pregnancy.
Below, Deshpande talks about the different stressors during a high-risk pregnancy (along with the biggest one), how to navigate these stressors, what to do when you’re angry with your body, and much more.
Q: What is a high-risk pregnancy?
A: It’s a pregnancy where the woman and/or the baby or babies are at higher risk for developing medical complications. For example, if a woman is carrying multiples, has a history of pregnancy complications or preterm delivery, a history of recurrent pregnancy loss or stillbirth or has preexisting medical conditions that could impact the health of the pregnancy, such as epilepsy, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease or asthma.
Q: Any common misconceptions you’d like to clear up about high-risk pregnancies?
A: Being classified as high-risk does not mean you will develop pregnancy complications, require activity restrictions or deliver preterm. It just means your pregnancy, your health and your baby’s health would benefit from more frequent medical attention by a high-risk pregnancy specialist, called a perinatologist, maternal fetal medicine specialist or high-risk OB.
Q: What are the biggest stressors your clients face during their high-risk pregnancies?
A: Almost all of my clients have a complicated medical history. They’ve experienced loss, delivered preterm or had trouble getting pregnant or some combination of the three. So the biggest source of their stress is anxiety and fear that the past will repeat itself.
Many of them also carry grief and guilt from their past experiences into their current pregnancy, which is another source of stress. All of this translates to difficulty sleeping or not breathing optimally, which can impact mood and also contribute to physiological stress levels.
Q: What are some strategies for readers to navigate these stressors and to take good care of themselves?
A: First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that your body is experiencing stress and to pay attention to how your body is exhibiting the signs. Is it through headaches? Preterm contractions? Elevated blood pressure? Insomnia? Be honest with yourself about what your body is going through and how it’s trying to get your attention.
Based on the symptoms you’re experiencing start making small lifestyle changes that will help alleviate the symptoms. For example, if your elevated stress response is causing you to have trouble sleeping, improve your sleep hygiene by sleeping at the same time every night in a cool room, having enough pillows to support you and your growing bump.
If the most bothersome symptoms is preterm contractions, find a way to relax your body. Massage, showers or baths (if allowed), going in a swimming pool are all great options. The goal is to relieve and improve the physical symptoms, which will ultimately improve the emotional symptoms of stress.
Q: I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of your clients get angry with themselves because they’re going through a high-risk pregnancy. For instance, maybe they feel like their bodies have failed them. Which can lead them to feeling disconnected from their bodies and themselves, and feel even more stressed out and overwhelmed. How do you suggest readers who feel this way connect to their self-compassion?
A: Yes, after having experienced trauma in the past (in the form of a loss, infertility, delivery, previous high-risk pregnancy, etc.) most of my clients do feel disconnected from their bodies. The anger, I share frequently, is a sign of unresolved grief and mourning. When women experience a high-risk pregnancy, there are many non-death losses that are experienced. The loss of a healthy pregnancy or full-term pregnancy, for example. These losses must be mourned to alleviate the anger and the underlying unresolved grief.
Reminding yourself of all the things you did do for your baby and are doing for your baby instead of focusing on everything going wrong is a great mindset shift that helps.
Similarly, focusing on what they can do to help themselves during this pregnancy can put them back in control of their experience. No matter how big or small these gestures are, everything from staying well hydrated to exercising enough to being prepared for every medical appointment, each one is critical to helping her have a different experience, a healthier experience, during her current high-risk pregnancy.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about caring for themselves during a high-risk pregnancy?
A: It takes a village to raise a child, but during a high-risk pregnancy it also takes a village to grow a child. Ask for help. Delegate tasks you don’t have to do yourself. You may want to do them but you don’t have to. Let your village care for you so you can care for your baby.
Parijat Deshpande is the leading perinatal mind-body wellness counselor, high-risk pregnancy expert, speaker and author who guides women to quickly and effectively release their stress during their high-risk pregnancy so they can give their baby a strong start to life. Her unique approach has served hundreds of women to manage pregnancy complications and reclaim a safety and trust in their bodies that they thought was eroded forever.
Parijat is the bestselling author of Pregnancy Brain: A Mind-Body Approach to Stress Management During a High-Risk Pregnancy. She is also the host of the popular podcast Delivering Miracles®, that discusses the real, raw side of family-building including infertility, loss, high-risk pregnancy, bed rest, prematurity and healing once baby comes home.
You can learn more about Parijat Deshpande and her work at www.parijatdeshpande.com.