Jennifer, who suffered a stillbirth, gives us tips on coping with anxiety in a pregnancy after a stillbirth
'As the months progressed I got more and more nervous. Am I going to get a baby in my arms this time that’s going to be alive?'
1. Set milestones
When 36 or so long weeks stretch ahead of you, it can feel like an eternity. You might find it helps to break your pregnancy down into more manageable chunks and just focus on getting to these.
So, the booking appointment or 12 week scan could be your first milestone, then perhaps feeling your baby kick.
If this still feels too overwhelming, break your time down further - focus on getting through just one day at a time.
2. Bring support to the scans
If you’ve received bad news in a scan in the past, or are consumed by worries for your baby’s well-being, attending scans can be distressing in future pregnancies.
Make sure you have support around you by always taking someone with you. If you want to, tell the sonographer the situation, or give them something to read so that they are aware of your situation.
If you want receive your antenatal care at a different hospital, ask your GP for a referral.
'I feared every scan I went to, thinking, ‘Is this going to be the last scan I see? What’s this scan going to tell me?’ I was living on my nerves all the time. As soon as I got into the scanning room I broke down in tears. I explained to the photographer we’d had bad news in a scan previously and she was very understanding, talking us through every part of the scan, so there were fewer nerve-wracking silences.'
3. Be ready to respond to upsetting questions
When you’re pregnant again, you’ll probably find yourself in situations where people ask if this is your first baby, how many children you have, and so on. It might help to prepare an answer to this question.
'At antenatal classes you get asked ‘Is this your first?’ Do you tell a load of mums, ‘Actually no it’s not, and bad things can happen in pregnancy.’ Or do you keep schtum? In the end I just stopped going to classes because I found it far too uncomfortable. I’ll always be a mother of three. Whether I explain about the stillbirth or not depends on who I’m speaking to, but I’ll always be a mother of three.'
4. Talk to others
Lots of mums have told us they find comfort in talking to other mums in similar situations - whether that’s through friends and family, support groups, or online - it’s good to share.
'Thankfully, two mums who had also lost babies also fell pregnant at the same time. Just to have a chat with people and be completely honest. You could talk about the children that you’ve lost, the worries you’re having at the moment, and ask, ‘Is this normal?' I used online forums. I found it very helpful to offload with other ladies who’d had similar experiences. It feels less personal – and sometimes more secure – to let out your inner monster to strangers online. Just knowing that there are other people who’ve been through the same thing and come back from it made me feel stronger.'
5. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or get in touch with your midwife, or hospital, if you have any concerns throughout your pregnancy. That’s what we’re here for. Make sure you ask your midwife who to contact in different situations and have all the relevant numbers handy.
'Small things get completely heightened. But thankfully medical people dealt with all my concerns and didn’t make me feel stupid for what I was asking. This time around I thought if I’m worried about anything, I’m not messing about, I’ll phone people. I’ll phone my midwife, I’ll phone the hospital. I’m not just going to think ‘Oh that’s a silly question,’ I’m going to ring because the risk of what could potentially happen isn’t worth it. There’s no point stewing over something when you can just pick up the phone, or go to a clinic.'
6. Don't prepare too much if it makes you anxious
Painting the nursery, buying baby clothes, packing your labour bag - the kind of things that lots of mums savour - can become difficult tasks. Try not to put pressure on yourself to enjoy these moments. If it makes you feel better, only buy/prepare what's absolutely necessary. It is not a problem to wait until you have your baby in your arms before you, for example, prepare the nursery for example as your baby will probably spend their first few months with you.
'In the end I packed a ‘best case scenario’ bag and a ‘worst case scenario’ bag for hospital because after Alexander [died], one of the hardest things I found was putting all the baby clothes away.'
7. It's OK to feel the way you are feeling
Everyone experiences different anxieties and has their own way of coping. You might feel guilty about not enjoying being pregnant, or the opposite - guilty for enjoying it. Don’t feel like you have to justify your feelings to anyone.
'Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to feel good. If you feel rubbish then just accept that you feel rubbish. Sometimes I found that just accepting the feeling was enough to make it go away. In this pregnancy I’ve had a scan every fortnight to check up on the little one. I’m starting to feel movement, which is exciting, but I’m wary. I feel a bit detached. When you know what can happen, that’s always in the back of your mind, but things do feel different this time.'
8. Don’t forget about yourself
So much thought and energy goes into your baby - willing the pregnancy to go smoothly - it’s easy to forget about yourself. Find ways to relax and escape your worries. You might want to try:
- Keeping a diary
- Pregnancy yoga
'I kept a diary during my pregnancy so if I ever felt I needed to air my feelings (but didn’t want to fully air them to anyone) I just wrote it down.'
9. Support each other
You and your partner might have different ways of grieving for your baby and coping with a new pregnancy. This can sometimes cause tensions. Try to keep talking to each other and find ways to look after each other.
10. Talk to our midwives
Falling pregnant again after the trauma of losing a baby can be very difficult. If you’re struggling to cope with anxieties, or feeling low, please talk to your midwife. You can also call our Pregnancy Line on 0800 0147 800, Mon to Fri 9-5.