High-Risk Pregnancy: What to Do and How to Cope
Jennifer Humphrey, MSN, RN, Fetal Care Coordinator, Connecticut Children’s
If your pregnancy is high risk, it’s natural to have a mix of emotions ranging from joy and anticipation—to fear and even sorrow. Even though every woman’s high risk pregnancy is different, you’re not alone. As a trained, certified fetal care coordinator for women with high-risk pregnancies, Jennifer Humphrey, MSN, RN, supports families facing some of the most challenging fetal conditions at the Fetal Care Center at Connecticut Children’s.
Jennifer shares some high-risk pregnancy do’s and don’ts, as well as resources for seeking support. Read below the fold for more.
What should I do if I have a high risk pregnancy?
If you’ve just learned you have a high-risk pregnancy (for which there are many reasons), first take the time you need to process it. Here are some action items, and some reminders, that can help along the way. Do:
- Rest your body and mind as much as possible—Easier said than done, but try to carve time out of the day to prioritize self-care. You might meditate, engage in light exercise with your doctor’s ok, or simply allow yourself to focus on one second, minute, hour and day at a time. You can only control so much.
- Bring a support person to your appointments—This can be a partner, a friend or relative—anyone you trust to help you take in information and keep track of things.
- Make a list of questions for each milestone appointment—Don’t be afraid to ask anything that’s on your mind when it comes to yours and your developing baby’s health. You might want to know what certain medical terms mean, or how much your baby has grown since the last growth scan, for example.
- Get to know the high-risk pregnancy lingo—More than likely, you’ve done some research on your baby’s condition, but might not know all the acronyms and clinical terms doctors use when performing tests. For example, NST = non-stress test, a Doppler ultrasound checks for blood flow, AC = abdominal circumference, and more.
- Accept help if you have others to care for at home—Now is the time to graciously accept grocery run or meal delivery offers, or to ask a neighbor to walk the dog.
- Set boundaries with work—If you find yourself scrambling and working twice as hard to prepare for maternity leave, have a candid conversation with your manager. If you have to miss work due to frequent appointments, look into getting a doctor’s note so you are covered. A reasonable employer will support you in whatever you need.
- Set boundaries with everyone else—If you have to put plans with friends and family on hold to rest, don’t be afraid to do so. If they persist with specific questions about your baby’s health or growth, simply tell them you trust your doctors and you’ll update them if or when there’s news to share.
- Advocate for yourself—There is always a choice and a path forward. Take what you know, talk candidly with your medical team and make any decisions for your health accordingly.
- Seek out communities and support systems— Again, you are not alone. If you’re able, consider talk therapy or keep reading to learn about specific resources for fetal conditions.
What shouldn’t I do if I have a high risk pregnancy?
Please try to resist doing any of the following. Don’t:
- Blame yourself—Your high-risk pregnancy is not your fault, so avoid phrases like, “What did I do wrong?” or, “What could I have done differently?” Most of the time, it’s just the course of how the placenta develops.
- Compare stories—Your journey is your own, and no one else’s. Pregnancy is not a race, and everyone’s high-risk pregnancy is different, even if you find you have the same condition as someone you know.
- Consult Dr. Google—Please don’t do this, although it may be tempting. Nothing positive will come out of a medical Google search.
- Overuse social media—You’ll find there are many “support groups” on social channels. While they can be helpful, do proceed with a bit of caution for the same reasons above.
- Isolate yourself frequently—Processing your emotions is important, but do your best to keep to your usual routine for your mental health’s sake. You will have the same outcome regardless—which goes for any challenge you face in life.
What high-risk pregnancy resources exist?
In addition to exploring therapy, there are some resources for fetal conditions. You might want to look into:
- My Face: Amniotic Band Syndrome
- CHERUBS: The Support Division of CDH International
- Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine: High Risk Pregnancy Information
- Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England
- Spina Bifida Association: Resources
- The Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome Foundation: Support Groups During Pregnancy
Additionally, you can find support in your area through March of Dimes.
Should you seek care at the Fetal Care Center at Connecticut Children’s, we’ll connect you with the support you need, including transportation, social work and tours of our NICU and PICU. We’re here for you.
Meet Jennifer Humphrey
Jennifer Humphrey, MSN, RN is a nurse in the Fetal Care Center at Connecticut Children’s. Jenn’s clinical background is in neonatal intensive care and nursing education.
About the Fetal Care Center at Connecticut Children’s
The Fetal Care Center at Connecticut Children’s offers comprehensive diagnostic testing, treatment and fetal surgery for complex fetal conditions.
Families with high-risk pregnancies receive care all under one roof at our state-of-the-art facility, right in Connecticut Children’s Main Campus in Hartford at 282 Washington St. The Center is located on the 2nd floor, Suite F