Doctor’s appointments in pregnancy after loss can be especially triggering. But there are some things you can do to help navigate the triggers. Here are some tips on how to cope …
I used to refer to my OB office as the 9th circle of hell. After repeat pregnancy loss and sitting in that room for bad news time and time again, you might say I was averse.
But then came my pregnancy that actually stuck which mean a lot of time in that office. The smells were triggering. I was still jealous of other women’s bumps, even while carrying my own. And the dread, palpable dread, that came over me whenever my OB pulled out the Doppler.
But going to doctor’s appointments was not optional. And I felt most comfortable with my OB who understood my history and sympathized with my understandable worries.
It was imperative I find a way to cope with these doctor’s appointments after loss.
After some trial and error, here are some of the things I really found helpful.
Create a network of support.
For me, that meant creating a small, private Facebook group for those who wanted to support me through my pregnancy after loss. I could let them know when a doctor’s appointment was coming up. Friends prayed for me, especially for ultrasounds, but even more than that, just knowing people cared and would ask me how it went was helpful. I also joined online support groups and made some solid friendships with people going through pregnancy at the same time as I was.
Maybe you create a big village of support. Or maybe, you keep one or two people in the loop. The size of your village or the way you communicate your need for support is not as important as simply knowing you’re not facing this alone.
Invite someone to attend with you.
There was no way I was going to any ultrasound alone. On those really key appointments, I made sure to have a support person. Sometimes it was my husband, sometimes another family member. They kept track of the questions I wanted to ask, and sometimes even took notes of the doctor’s responses. That was especially helpful when my emotions were triggered and it was hard to concentrate on what they were saying. (Anything the doctor said before verifying that the heart was beating was completely lost on me.)
Invite someone to attend those really hard appointments with you. They can help keep you distracted in the waiting room. Hold your hand tightly when the technician squirts that cold jelly on your exposed belly, and you are terrified of what is coming next. Help you process after the appointment what the doctor said. And make sure you have your instructions clear if you are on medicine, bed rest, or any other home-management technique for a risky pregnancy.
And, God forbid, if the worst happens, you’re not alone when you get the news.
Ask for what you need (and even just plain want).
My doctor walked with me through five losses and a very scary first birth. I appreciated that she was well-versed in my history, and was willing to help accommodate my wants and needs. For me, that meant having a plan in place for likely complications given my history. From plans for an early birth to increased monitoring, we covered it all. I was encouraged to give the nurse a call if I was worried about anything, and you better believe I took them up on it.
Communicating your fears, wants and needs to your doctor — and her being receptive to that — can be key in helping you cope with doctor’s appointments in pregnancy after loss.
See a specialist.
While I absolutely wanted to stay with my OB, my history dictated that I needed to see a high-risk specialist. I was able to see both doctors during my pregnancy, and knowing I had two very capable sets of eyes on me and my baby was very comforting.
You may want to consider adding a high-risk doctor, or reproductive endocrinologist, to your medical team if you’ve experienced later loss, recurrent pregnancy loss, or infertility before achieving this pregnancy.
Cover your history.
I made sure my specialist had access to my complete medical records, including the nurses’ notes from my complicated first birth and my test results from my reproductive endocrinologist.
Ask your doctor’s offices (including specialists) to send you paper files of your records, as well as forwarding those on to the other specialist. That way, if your records end up in some random technological black hole, you still have everything the doctor needs at that appointment.
Be mindful of when you schedule your doctor’s appointments.
If you are really feeling sensitive to all the burgeoning baby bumps, you’re not alone. However, you are also not helpless. Tell your doctor that you are struggling to be around that many pregnancies, and request to be seen at a part in the day when there are fewer expecting couples. Many offices will work with you to come during the slowest part of the day. Bring something with you to distract you in the waiting room — like streaming your favorite TV show on your phone, or bring that novel you can scarcely put down.
Also, try to avoid scheduling big appointments on trigger dates if you can help it. Having your 20-week ultrasound on the expected due date of the baby who didn’t make it makes for an extremely emotional day.
Find a different provider. Or request to be seen in a different office.
Sometimes, even with all your coping mechanisms in place, it’s just too much. If keeping your provider is important to you, see if they have a different office you can visit, even if that means a bit longer of travel.
RELATED: Finding an OB After Pregnancy Loss
It also may be time to switch practices. Only you can know when it’s just too much, and your emotional and mental health must take precedence. Finding a new provider and getting that fresh start can be the right way to go as well.
It’s hard to cope with doctor’s appointments — even when you know how important they are.
It’s such a catch-22. Knowing that you will do all things necessary to keep this pregnancy and baby as healthy as possible. And knowing that doing those things, like going to appointments, will be full of triggers.
No matter how you choose to cope, try to remember to take some deep breaths in that waiting room. Repeat to yourself this favorite affirmation from Lindsey Henke, “This is a different pregnancy, a different baby, a different story, with a different outcome.”
How did you cope with doctor’s appointments in your pregnancy after loss? What tips would you share with newly pregnant after loss mamas?