A Worry-Free Pregnancy

When I was first pregnant, I saw a book by that title in the store, said, “HAH!! There’s no such thing!” I still sort of feel that way.

My first pregnancy, I got a faint positive pregnancy test some 4 days after my first missed period; then the next day, a second pregnancy test yielded a negative. I immediately got on the internet to find out why I might have less hCG 24 hours later, instead of more. At the time, I thought hCG doubled every 24 hours; now I know it’s more like every 48 hours. Of course, the most common reason for a negative pregnancy test when you’re actually pregnant is that your urine is just not concentrated enough, and doesn’t have enough hCG in it to make the test register a positive — you drank too much water and/or didn’t hold your pee long enough. But, of course, another common reason is that you might be having a miscarriage, and your hCG levels are dropping. Oh, yeah, worry-free! Not!

Then, the midwife couldn’t find the heartbeat at either 9 weeks or 13 weeks! I didn’t realize that the baby could hear or otherwise sense the Doppler, and was swimming away from it as long as he could. But I cried on the way home from that appointment, and was relieved that the midwife suggested I come in 2 weeks later, instead of the typical 4 weeks of early pregnancy. And at 15 weeks, we heard the heartbeat. Relief!

Much of my second pregnancy was not exactly filled with worry about the baby or pregnancy itself, but had its share of other worries (finances, and my husband being an over-the-road driver at the time). In fact, I waited until the midwife could hear the heartbeat with a fetoscope, assuming everything was fine until proven otherwise.

Now, with this pregnancy, I had the spotting in early pregnancy, which has, of course, been worrisome. Even though I knew that many women spot in early pregnancy, it had never happened to me. The spotting at first was worrisome; but the red bleeding several days later made me say, “Okay, I am having a miscarriage.” Then it stopped. But the worry has continued.

Somehow, worry and pregnancy seem to go hand-in-hand, and I don’t see that it’s possible for a mother not to worry, unless she simply doesn’t care about her baby. How could you not worry about your baby if you think you’re miscarrying? I’m not saying that every caring mother spends the entire nine months on pins and needles, constantly chewing her fingernails in fear and worry — that would be very non-beneficial to the baby, and not helpful to the mother either. But I think everyone has some level of concern, hoping that the baby is okay now and will be okay all throughout pregnancy.

When I was spotting and for the first several days after that, I was very tuned in to my uterus. Every twinge I wondered, “Is this the first menstrual-like cramp of the miscarriage… starting for real? Or, is it just my uterus growing because there’s a baby in there?” The little feelings of stretching or other twinges in my lower pelvis in the side made me think, “Is it an ectopic pregnancy? Is this the first sign of the fallopian tube swelling, prior to breaking?” Of course, the twinge would stop quickly, and if not, I did the old “round ligament pain” trick of pushing on the area with my hand and leaning into the area where the pain/twinge was, and it went away. [Update — I did end up miscarrying soon after writing this.]

When I was first pregnant, a sister-in-law expressed a little worry that I hadn’t experienced morning sickness yet; then a week or two later when I had been nauseated and/or thrown up at least once, she expressed relief. Why? Because she had known one or more women who had had miscarriages in pregnancies when they didn’t get morning sickness, but had morning sickness in every pregnancy they carried to term. There may something behind that — it’s possible that once the levels of hCG rise to a certain point, it induces nausea in some women; and if a woman’s levels don’t reach that high, it either causes or indicates a miscarriage. However, not all women get nausea; and not all women get it in every pregnancy. My mom and both my sisters had very low or nonexistent morning sickness; my paternal grandmother only got sick when she ate potatoes. So, I could have been one of those women, and not gotten sick at all! Yet my sister-in-law would probably have been worried for me until I reached the end of the first trimester, over my not being sick. And in this pregnancy, one of the first questions many people have asked me, when they found out that I had some spotting and bleeding, was, “Are you sick yet?” I know they’re worried that my hormone levels may not be as high as they ought to be. But I’m able to relieve them a bit by saying, “No, but I didn’t get sick until 8 weeks with my first, and I’m not there yet with this pregnancy.”

Another sister-in-law had nausea during her first pregnancy, but not during her second — at least at first. I found out recently that she had had spotting or bleeding during the second pregnancy, so she thought she might be having a miscarriage. So her lack of nausea was a real concern to her, because she too thought that it might be a signal of an impending miscarriage. She actually prayed that she would get sick. And she did. Be careful what you wish for!! I think she ended up being worse sick in the second pregnancy than the first, but she oddly felt better about it, because to her it was a sign that she was not miscarrying.

I can understand that. In one sense, in the “logical” part of my brain, it doesn’t make sense — to be thankful for nausea, vomiting, discomfort, or pain; but in another part of my brain, it does. Because with the fear of miscarriage looming in the not-so-distant past (and I know I could still miscarry, although I have no symptoms for it now), I get a twinge of worry every time I realize that I haven’t noticed that my breasts are sore and/or tender. Then I kinda gently push on them a bit and get a reassuring “ouch” that they are still just as sensitive as they ever were during pregnancy — in fact, perhaps more so — I don’t remember them being this tender for this long in my previous pregnancies, but I might be misremembering.

So, I don’t think it’s possible not to have some level of worry about some aspect of pregnancy or other, in the face of certain uncontrollable factors. Sure, a lot of women worry about things that they shouldn’t — things that are either normal, or are not necessarily a sign of something bad. Many women worry about labor, and (especially if it’s a first baby) face the fear of the unknown. And if a woman has a rough experience in a previous pregnancy or birth, she may fear a repeat of the first time. Which would be a normal reaction.

But worry isn’t healthy and much of the time it isn’t helpful. What is healthy and helpful is to face the fears, see why you have these fears, and what you can do about them. There may not be anything you can do to stop a miscarriage; but you may be able, through learning and educating yourself, to avoid a repeat of a bad birth experience. You may look to tests to reassure you that everything is fine (blood tests to make sure your hCG levels are rising normally; amnio or ultrasound to make sure that your baby is developing normally) — but often the knowledge gained from tests is not helpful in one sense. What if your hCG levels are not rising normally? You can prepare for a miscarriage, but you probably can’t do anything to prevent it. If an amniocentesis shows that there is a genetic problem with your baby, you cannot change that — you can prepare for a baby with a genetic disorder, or have an abortion; but the amnio won’t change what is (except it might cause a miscarriage that you wouldn’t have had without an amnio). Worry-free? I don’t think so.

10 Responses

  1. I hear you. In general I am not a worrier, I tend to look at everything from a very logical standpoint and, once I’ve got all the availible evidence, make the best statistical choice. Once that’s done worry doesn’t make any logical sense since I’ve already chosen the ‘best’ logical course, worrying isn’t going to change the odds and it might introduce stress, which might. But when I get hedged in (as I have been in this pregnancy) waiting for other people’s input, other people’s decisions, unable to make my own choices, I start worrying greatly about what the other party will decide. How will I cope, given the knowledge I have, if their decision isn’t the ‘right’ one? How can I convince them? How can I make the best out of a ‘bad’ situation? Since my worry side has convinced my brain this falls under ‘planning’ not ‘useless worry’ I can’t dismiss it as I would irrational fears after a thought out choice. My husband rarely (almost never!) sees this side to me and he’s completely baffled as to how to react to his pregnant wife that can’t stop with the ‘what if’ worse senario situation, and I’m depressed, worried, and ready to crawl out of my skin having to wait on OTHER people’s decisions, which may or may not leave me without the ability to chose at all. Its been a REALLY long 3 months (currently 25 weeks pregnant but this didn’t really start until I realized I couldn’t find anyone willing to even see me for prenatal care in september). Still praying your pregnancy will settle down and be a good one Kathy!

  2. Hi Kathy, whenever I find that worry or anxiety is kind of making me sick or distracting me, I approach it in this way: first, I identify what it is that is worrying me. Then, I look at what is worrying me or causing me anxiety and I ask myself, “what is the worst thing that can happen?” Then I think about what I would do, how I would respond and cope, if that “worst thing” happened. Then there is nothing left to be worried about. In your position, I’d think to myself, “the worst thing that can happen is, I miscarry. If that happened, I would most likely be able to get pregnant again. I would be sad, but I would move forward knowing that this pregnancy was not to be, and I will likely conceive again.” Not to discount the bad feelings that would go along with the bad outcome, but just to look at them at recognize them for what they are. They will not destroy you. The bad outcome would not destroy you. You would survive. I feel like, even though this approach does not take away the possibility of the bad thing happening, it minimizes its power. I think I am rambling now, having trouble explaining it in a straightforward way. But, in the end, while you have no control over the outcome, you do have control over how you cope.
    Nora

  3. I didn’t worry at all with my first or second pregnancies – with my first, I didn’t realize the possibility of miscarriage (I just hadn’t heard it talked about); with my second, I was so sick that I literally didn’t have the brainpower to worry – and I knew that my hormones were working overtime! Even after I felt better, I just didn’t worry. With my third pregnancy, I worried nonstop start to finish, and was convinced that I was going to miscarry the whole time. Why??? I have no idea!!

    Glad to hear you two are well!! Keep us posted! So excited for you!!

  4. Yes, there are strategies that can reduce the worry. But I don’ think you should feel bad about being worried (like you are not using the “right” tricks). I have had several miscarriages, and in this pregnancy, I worried a lot… until I got hyperemesis and was too sick to worry. It helped a lot once the baby started moving and I could get more frequent reassurance that it was still alive. But even now, at 39+ weeks, with the baby doing karate over the course of the day, I still worry a bit that maybe something will still happen. Life is risky and if you really care about the outcome then I think some worrying is pretty human. For me it helps to just recognize that the worry is there rather than trying to “not” worry.

  5. Oh yeah. That is the thing I most dislike about pregnancy, is the constant worrying. I try really hard to stay positive and relaxed about it. But the worry is there in the background, hovering, buzzing around.

  6. Not sure if it was my comment that sparked this post, Kathy, but if so, please know my point was not to offend you in any way or chastise you for worrying. It was to share my experience of not worrying and being glad that I hadn’t. I am well aware that women most often DO worry about pregnancy. My intention was 1) to share that it is possible to experience these kinds of things without it ending in miscarriage and 2) that it is possible for worry to not be a part of the equation, even when worrisome things might be present.

    Anyway, I don’t know if I would say that pregnancy can be *completely* worry-free, but I disagree with you if what you are saying is that it is impossible to not worry ABOUT the pregnancy or that if it is possible, it means a mom does not care enough about her unborn child.

    I imagine I had the same concerns (don’t know if I’d call them worries, necessarily) many women do throughout pregnancy–will I be a good mom? What if I don’t recognize labor? Will I be able to “do” natural childbirth? What if we don’t find a name in time for the birth, etc. But when it comes to what my body is doing/feeling, I really do not worry. If I did, my life would take on a whole new world of drama, because of what my pregnancies have been like (spotting, cramping, “pre-term” labor, etc.). If I were a worrier about these things, we would have been done after one child. I would not (nor would my hubby) be able to handle the drama of pregnancy filled with the things that would happen with such worry present (multiple ER visits, bedrest, drugs, etc).

    My lack of worry during pregnancy (about the actual pregnancy) is very real and I care a great deal for each of my babies. With my third pregnancy, I had an option to request an ultrasound for “maternal assurance,” since that is the only way I would get one for that pregnancy (my midwife doesn’t order ultrasounds w/o a medical reason, with this one exception). I decided not to request it, because my midwife knew me well and knew I wasn’t a worrier. I would really have liked one, but it was more important to me to be a good witness to my midwife and not lie to get an unnecessary ultrasound (it would have been a total lie for me–I did not need any assurance–I was just curious what her gender was! Also, as Gloria Lemay recently pointed out, an ultrasound, etc. only gives assurance for that moment and no further).

    This does not mean that I do not consider what might happen or be happening when I experience things that may make other women worry, I just take each thing as it happens and wait to see what will come of it. And I am not in the clouds with my expectations, figuring that nothing bad will happen or I could never miscarry.

    From the first pregnancy, I have considered miscarriage within the sphere of expectations I should prepare for, and I am mentally prepared for that realistic outcome with each pregnancy, but I do not worry that I could or may be miscarrying. Does that make sense? If I do end up miscarrying, then I will mourn, but until then, I see it as a waste of my time and energy to worry. I do not think that a mother’s love for her unborn child can be measured by how much she worries.

    Perhaps it is semantics, and worry means two different things to us. For me, to *mentally acknowledge* the very real possibility of miscarriage, etc. does not equal *worry.* And from this perspective, I have to disagree with you and say that it *is* possible for a woman to not worry in pregnancy.

    At any rate, I congratulate you on your pregnancy, and I do hope that the remainder goes well for you. Children are a true gift from God, and you are blessed!

    • No offense at all! I wasn’t even thinking about it, really — more what is going on in my off-line life. I’ll be posting a bit more about it, but there are 3 other women right now in my church who are pregnant (we’re all due within about a 6 week span), and each of them spotted somewhat in this current pregnancy; two of them went to the doctor because they thought they were miscarrying; the other one dismissed it as light spotting, since it was her first, and she had heard that spotting was normal. Hearing lots of stories of women who have spotted and gone on to have normal pregnancies has helped; but it is undoubtedly a worrisome thing.

      It may be “semantics” — when I say “worry” I don’t mean that I’m up all night every night chewing my fingernails about things I can’t control. But that it springs up every now and then; and many times is just a sort of “under-riding current,” that if I stop and pay attention to it, I recognize; but otherwise I don’t.

      As I said, I did not worry much if at all when I was pregnant with Seth (my second baby); I think that the miscarriage fears both this time and with Keith (my first) triggered worry that I simply didn’t have with Seth. Well, not much — when I was very first pregnant and still nursing, I could feel my uterus contract, and I wondered if it was possible it was a very early miscarriage; but that was even several days before I would be “late” so it wasn’t really a “worry” for me — not like with a confirmed pregnancy, more like thinking “I don’t remember being able to feel my uterus contract like this before — am I losing my mind, or is this different?”😉

      So, yes I did have a pregnancy in which I had minimal worry about the pregnancy and the baby. And it has nothing to do with how much I love him.

      I think it’s best if a woman can deal with worries or put them aside — like Nora above said — face your fears head-on, figure out a “game plan” for whatever happens and then move on with life.

      You have a very good attitude; I will try to co-opt that.🙂 Even right now, I accept that a miscarriage may still happen. Or a fetal demise, a stillbirth, or a neonatal death. I’m not “worried” about that in one sense; and yet in another, it is a very real possibility to me, so, yes, it is a bit worrisome to me. It’s pointless — completely pointless — to rush out and meet trouble… yet sometimes my imagination runs away with me. And sometimes I worry. It may be mild, but I would have to classify it as worry.

      As an example, I’ve thought about going to the doctor just to verify; yet now, it seems like everything is fine, so I’m not planning on it. But then there’s the idea of waiting until a fetoscope can pick up the heartbeat, or having the midwife use a Doppler. I’m not sure yet what I want to do. When I was pregnant with my first child, as I said above, we didn’t get the heartbeat until 15 weeks anyway, with the Doppler; and it was because he was running away from it! That gave me a distaste for Dopplers and all ultrasounds unless necessary. Is my maternal worry a good enough reason to override that distaste and subject my child to sound waves that s/he can sense are there, and avoid?

      What if it’s a molar pregnancy? One of my friends had one of those; no reason why I shouldn’t. I’m not *worried* about it; but I recognize it as a possibility, and I wonder/worry about it. There are a lot of “What ifs” that I could choose to worry myself about, and I have to make myself not. For me, the more I know, the more I have to worry about. I know the stats — I know that only 1/1000 or 10,000 or 100,000 babies will have x, y, or z; but sometimes I wonder, “will mine be one of those?” For me, to wonder about it is to worry about it. If I had never heard of anencephaly, I wouldn’t worry about it; and I don’t *worry* worry, but I do “wonder/worry,” if that makes sense. I know I’m at low risk; but there is no such thing as “no risk.” For anything. And if I dwell on that, I could worry a LOT. Not that it would do any good! I recognize that. But I’ve got a battle in my brain between my worrisome side and my “aw, it’ll be all right!” side. Usually the latter wins, but I can’t say that I have had a “worry free pregnancy.” Even if I don’t worry for the rest of this pregnancy about anything, I’ve still worried for the several days that I spotted. Yet, I wonder/worry if the baby has some sort of genetic defect; if the heart will develop right (I had a congenital heart defect, and though there is a very low risk of recurrence, it is a possibility); I’ve looked at the CDC linked birth-death certificates, and the causes of deaths of all those babies, and I know there’s no reason why my baby couldn’t be one of those; I checked on my kids in the middle of the night to make sure they were breathing and hadn’t died of SIDS for years (sometimes still do!). I would classify that as worry; somewhat reasonable, somewhat not. Certainly maternal concern — maybe others wouldn’t call it “worry.” Yet I don’t consider myself to be a worrier, because it’s not a consuming fear — more just if I happen to think of it, and then if I dwell on it, it gets worse. So I try not to think of it. Yet, when situations happen (such as the spotting) that give me a concrete reason for concern, I can’t help but worry.🙂

      • Thanks for responding, Kathy. After reading this, I think we may be more on the same page than I previously thought.

        Sorry to read about more spotting/bleeding. I hope with you that this baby is okay and that you will carry it to term.

        • I may have made a poor choice of words; or projected too much of my own philosophy on others. I do think we’re on the same page.

          However, I am having a miscarriage — no denying it. It would be an absolute miracle if I were not. I may post more later, but will say that I am okay with it, because there’s nothing I can do about it, and I can finally stop worrying. {sad smile}

  7. Pam England says “worry is the work of pregnancy”😉

    I had no nausea at all with my first two pregnancies and then quite a bit with my third (I even threw up the day before I miscarried).

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