Sound advice for sailing through crisis during pregnancy
Women don’t generally expect to battle an emotional crisis during pregnancy. Every pregnant woman anticipates at least some moments of bliss during her nine months. Women fantasize about it. They dream of the loving partner giving nightly back rubs, the beaming little old ladies passing by on the street, and uninterrupted minutes of enjoying every kick and hiccup. In fact, that is what some pregnant women experience—lots of happy peaceful moments, eagerly anticipating the arrival of their adorable baby, but in the meantime, reveling in the easy pregnancy.
Read more: How am I supposed to feel during pregnancy?
Pregnancy + extra stress
Unfortunately, as a psychologist who specializes in reproductive medicine counseling, that is not the kind of pregnant woman I see. Bliss doesn’t walk through my door. What walks through my door are women with bumps who have something else going on. That could be a health complication for either mother or baby, it could be an issue with the partner, be it job-related, infidelity, or illness. It is often a crisis with one of her parents, most frequently the impact of a challenging medical diagnosis.
I have one patient right now who is very very pregnant who is trying to come to terms with the recent terminal diagnosis of her dad, and another patient who found out midway through her pregnancy that her mother-in-law has a progressive neurological disease which will soon require around the clock assistance. I recently had a patient discover that her husband had cheated on her during her second trimester, with a young coworker. Needless to say, pregnancy brings with it enough demands and challenges, so that the addition of a significant crisis can make an expectant mom feel as if she is teetering on the verge of losing it.
Luckily, there are many stress management and relaxation strategies which can help. Of course, my first suggestion would be to speak to your health care team for a referral to a therapist who can support you during this crisis.
In the meantime, consider these:
Tips for managing pregnancy stress
Relaxation techniques: Easy to use, simple calming exercises work in the moment. You can download them from an app store or from iTunes. My current favorite is Insight Timer—it is free, and has hundreds of different guided relaxations to choose from, all different lengths to match the free time you have in that moment.
Exercise: As long as your provider is OK with you exercising, you may be surprised to find how effective exercise can be to lower your stress level. Take a brisk walk every time you feel stressed out, focus on your breath, the cadence of your feet, or what you can see/hear/smell. Better yet, walk with a friend or family member and get social support as part of the package.
Cognitive restructuring: Challenge the automatic thoughts you have, which you repeat to yourself over and over. Is that thought true? Is it logical? If not, create a new thought which is in fact true and logical.
Social support: You aren’t the only pregnant woman who is experiencing a crisis. Reach out to your friends and family, join a pregnancy-in-crisis meet up group, ask your health care provider for ideas. Being around people who know exactly how you feel can be incredibly reassuring.
Journal: Write about your thoughts and feelings. It is cathartic, and maybe more importantly, also gives you insight.
Read more: What’s your pregnancy stress level? [Quiz]
The fact is, it doesn’t feel fair to be faced with something unpleasant in your life during pregnancy. And you are right, it isn’t fair. But follow the suggestions above to give you a bit more control over how you handle these challenging circumstances. Feeling out of control should be optional.