Being pregnant again after a traumatic birth or high risk pregnancy is like walking through a field of memories and revisiting places you would rather not see again. It is not unusual to experience anxiety, self doubt and fear during your pregnancy.
Anxiety can come from unresolved trauma from your previous birth, as well as worrying about what could go wrong this time around.
Fear can come into play the closer you get to your due date and during routine tests, or milestones in your previous pregnancy or labor where things might have started to unravel.
Self doubt can arise at any point where we find ourselves trying to make the “perfect decision” to avoid our previous experience. This can result in procrastination, indecisiveness and looking to people outside ourselves to make the right choices for our family.
Pregnancy and birth are unpredictable by nature, most of the time things go well, but sometimes they just don’t. A way to set oneself up for a better experience is to accept that it will go how it goes on that day and in that moment.
Will things be better or even more challenging!?
It’s certain things will be different! A few things to consider to get you through your pregnancy calmly are acupuncture, choosing the right care provider, birth doula support, meditation or a relaxation practice, childbirth education, a birth plan and emotional support.
Acupuncture is something I discovered in the last three years that has brought me relief and more vitality. Sometimes the acupuncturist uses needles and other times it’s a focus on herbs. Traditional Chinese medicine is not just for sick people or if you have a backache. To a certain extent it’s a way of life, something to be integrated into your self-care routine to keep yourself balanced mentally, physically and emotionally. If you’re already pregnant you will need to find someone who specializes in pregnant women.
Choosing a Care Provider
Choosing the right care provider for your pregnancy is imperative to having a better birth experience, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you choose a care provider who you feel comfortable asking questions and expressing concerns with. This person could be your previous doctor/midwife or someone completely new.
Picking the right doctor doesn’t guarantee this birth will be better or won’t be worse. Instead, it gives you peace of mind that someone is on your side and knows your previous experience. You will work together to ensure you have the best and healthiest outcome possible.
If you’ve had a previous cesarean, you will need to decide if you want to schedule another one or have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Should you choose to pursue a VBAC, you will want to find a doctor who specializes in VBAC.
Birth Doula Support
Consider a birth doula. Having the support of someone beside your partner and doctor on delivery day will give you an important ally and buffer. A doula is focuses on your emotional well-being and best interest throughout your labor. You will want to look for a doula who has experience working with mothers who’ve had traumatic or unexpected birth outcomes. If you’re planning a VBAC you will want to find a doula who supports that.
Meditation and Relaxation
Another tool that I have found helpful is meditation. It helps me remember to breathe between an experience and my reaction.
I’ve meditated off and on over the past decade, but only in the last couple of years have I committed to a consistent practice and experienced changes for the better. First the changes were subtle, then more noticeable in the way I approach potentially anxiety inducing situations.
When you’re pregnant, especially after a less than ideal previous pregnancy or delivery, frustration, fears and “what ifs” are constant companions. Meditation helps you stay present and not focus on unhelpful thought patterns. I recommend looking for guided meditations online, or hypnobirthing meditations.
Preparing with Birth Classes
Childbirth education isn’t only for the uninitiated first-time parent. It’s a valuable resource of information and techniques to help any parent make informed decisions for subsequent pregnancies as well. Things change very quickly in regards to hospital protocol, tests being offered and newborn care recommendations. Taking a course to refresh what you already know will give you more confidence going into delivery.
If you’re trying for a VBAC, you will want to take a class that teaches choices and options specific to VBAC. This class should give you evidence based information about the latest research and standards of practice for VBAC deliveries.
What you learn in childbirth education does not supersede medical advice or protocol. Should any information conflict with what your doctor or midwife has said, it’s a good idea to speak with them directly about any concerns.
Writing a Birth Plan
While a birth plan does not guarantee an outcome, it allows you time to envision the kind of labor and delivery you want. It also helps you focus on the steps necessary to create an ideal environment. If you have a birth doula, you can ask for guidance in creating a plan. You can talk to your childbirth educator as well and use an online template or write your own. Your birth plan will help find topics you may want to discuss with your care provider before your birth. Filling it out with your partner makes certain they’re aware of your preferences and allows you time to discuss any differences of opinion beforehand.
If at any point during your pregnancy you feel like you’re struggling, seek professional help to get your emotions balanced prior to welcoming your new baby. It’s not always possible to resolve strong feelings about previous experiences without the help of someone else. This could be a professional therapist or healer who has experience working with pregnant mothers who have experienced traumatic births.
Stay in the moment, take one day at a time and enjoy this pregnancy for what it is.