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Getting Support for Pregnancy after a Stillbirth
No matter what month of pregnancy you were in when your baby died, it is a devastating experience. After experiencing such a loss, you have just as much right to grieve and have a memorial service and/or funeral for your 21-week-old infant as does the woman who birthed her deceased baby full term. Your life has changed forever by this tragedy and you will always be a mother to your baby and you have the right to honor that.
Pregnancy after a loss, or several losses, makes it more difficult to believe you will actually have a baby one day.
Unfortunately, it also places your body and mind in a constant heightened state of anxiety and worry. There are things you can do to manage the anxiety during your pregnancy such as having the reassurance that your doctor’s office will see you as often as you need outside the routine prenatal visits.
- Many women are reassured by hearing their baby’s heartbeat, particularly when they haven’t felt the baby moving too much. I had one patient audiotape the baby’s heartbeat on her phone so that if she were having a moment of worry she could play the soundtrack to calm her down and bridge the gap between appointments. Most doctors who have had a patient with pregnancy loss will offer this to you.
But you are your best advocate.
- Educate yourself on terminology and recent findings surrounding pregnancy loss and stillbirth. Be curious to learn that a woman of advanced maternal age should be receiving antenatal testing beginning at 37 weeks and delivering her baby by 39 weeks thereby reducing the incidence of unexplained term stillbirths. Being your best advocate will allow you to feel more actively engaged in your pregnancy, a feeling that many women are comforted by. The mind/body approach is equally important. So during subsequent pregnancies learn about the influential power of breathing.
- The breath has the capacity to calm your nervous system down and help you remain present when you start to feel insecure or panicky. • Our in breath is generally shorter than our out breath, so please focus on the breath going into your lungs to the count of 3 and watch the breath go out to the count of 4. Do this for 3-5 minutes and you will feel calmer and more in control and less chaotic.
- Create a journal. It is a wonderful way to manage the emotional ups and downs of your pregnancy. By doing so, you can help you track your daily emotional state, be aware of any negative triggers in particular; did you have an interesting dream or was there an anniversary date that prompted an intense reaction, etc.
- Lavender aromatherapy is very helpful in producing a calming effect and it will also help you sleep. There are other aromatherapy oils that produce relaxing, sedating and anti-anxiety benefits. Such as, Bergamot (relaxing), Mandarin (calming), Jasmine (sedating) and Sandalwood (sedating). If you can, pregnancy massage is another useful support to help you get through the last few months. No matter what particular way you have of pampering yourself and/or distracting yourself from anxiety, write those down and look at them when you need ideas.
Some people find Color Therapy a helpful tool; the color green is useful for calming and balancing the heart chakra, it promotes emotional harmony and balance. Green is a healing color to look at, wear and surround yourself with. Another useful color to wear or visualize around you is the color white. Just about everyone has heard of surrounding people with the “White Light of Healing and Protection.” So directing white light around you helps you to facilitate healing yourself and give you the comfort of knowing you are surrounded by a protective light aura. Sometimes no matter what we do we find we cannot relax.
This would a good time to add a psychologist or psychotherapist to your ‘birth team’ to help you with your more complicated thought patterns. A psychologist or psychotherapist can teach you some cognitive behavioral techniques that challenge the thoughts that are causing you distress. This therapy can be very effective at helping you find relief from the unrelenting thoughts, thereby helping you to enjoy your pregnancy more than you would have otherwise. Social support is also critical during this time. It is important to know you have a few close friends besides your partner that you can rely on to support you emotionally. It may also be a good idea to look for a doula or midwife to companion you through the pregnancy and/or a support group with women who because of their similar experiences not only understand and validate what you are feeling, but can ‘hold’ you through what can still be a joyous 40 weeks.
To increase your odds of having a successful pregnancy make sure you optimize your health prior to pregnancy with folic acid, vitamins, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, having genetic counseling tests performed and reducing any stressors possible. Prepare your body, your mind and your spiritual self to welcome conception and bring your baby through to your waiting arms.
Ivy Margulies, Psy.D.
Dr. Ivy Margulies is a Clinical Psychologist, Certified Death Midwife and the Founder of Angels Born Still. Her website is www.drivymargulies.com Twitter: @DrIvyMargulies. If you need any advice or have any questions please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.