A positive pregnancy test is always a very emotional time – especially if you have undergone fertility treatments and have been longing for this positive result for months or years. The first reaction is of course happiness, joy, excitement, relief: you made it, you’re pregnant!
However, in many cases other emotions quickly take over, such as anxiety and fear of losing the baby: you’ve fought so hard for this to happen that it’s difficult to actually believe that from now on everything is going to go well and that in a few months you’ll hold your baby. The good news is that this reaction is normal: this is your brain trying to protect you!
Fear is a basic emotion that is important for our survival. Fear is our body’s way of protecting us from danger: when we feel fear, our body releases chemicals that make us more alert and ready to fight or flee.
Fear is therefore a normal emotion, and it is important to remember that it is there to protect us. However, when there is no actual physical danger, fear gets more toxic than helpful, and it can become overwhelming. This is often the case during the first weeks of pregnancy after fertility treatments. When this happens, it can be difficult to think clearly and to be objective about the potential risks – let alone feel positive and confident about the pregnancy.
Practical advice to deal with fear during pregnancy
The fear of losing the baby is therefore a common emotion during pregnancy after Assisted Reproduction Treatments. What we need to avoid is that fear paralyzing and overwhelming us, as most pregnancies result in a healthy baby.
There are a number of things you can do to help deal with this fear and have a more serene pregnancy:
- Talk to your doctor or midwife about your concerns: they will reassure you and you’ll realize that the actual risk of losing the baby is not higher than for any other pregnancy
- Inform yourself: ask your doctor or midwife if you have any doubt, and read books or articles about pregnancy and childbirth. Learning as much as possible about the pregnancy process can help to ease some of the fear and anxiety.
- Take it step by step: pregnancy can seem very long – especially when you’ve undergone ART as you know you’re pregnant from the very beginning. Don’t project yourself too far ahead but on the next small step (next week, next echography, …)
- Don’t feel guilty about having these feelings: there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel, and each woman’s experience is unique.
- Remind yourself that your fear is not actually protecting nor serving you. On the contrary, it is a “double penalty”: if things go well and you have your baby, you will have suffered for nothing; if things go wrong and pregnancy doesn’t come to full term, you’ll have suffered twice (and to be very honest, the pain won’t be softened just because you prepared yourself to it). Suffering in advance for something that might not happen is simply useless and exhausting. It’s easier said than done, I know, as the fear is not always rational – but being conscious of it definitely helps.
- Make a list of all your fears (even the ones that sound stupid): identifying them can help you rationalize them, as you’ll realize that most of them are not actually justified. Our fears take up a lot of space when we try to elude them: writing them down and confronting them will help you keep them in the right place.
- Seek support in your loved ones: talk about your fears with people close to you, verbalizing them to others will also help you deal with them.
- Keep your mind busy! Meet friends, practice your hobby, keep working – don’t make too much space for negative thoughts.
- Talk to other women in your situation or who have lived the same situation: you’ll realize that this fear is normal and common, and that it is not so much justified by your medical condition as the emotional roller coaster of ART.
- If fear is getting too present or too difficult to deal with, don’t hesitate to consult a professional (therapist of coach) to help you deal with it and give you practical tools to feel more serene and positive.