Pregnant Pause

You're pregnant. Congratulations! Whether you've wanted a baby for years, or got pregnant the first try, the news that you're actually carrying a child brings a flood of emotions, including: elated ("I've waited for this for years!"), triumphant ("We did it!"), anxious (Can I handle it?), and overwhelmed (I can't handle it!).

"It's not unusual to have some conflicting feelings about pregnancy even if you're very happy with the news," says Jennifer Niebyl, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Here's some advice on dealing with the emotions that may have taken you by surprise:

  • Feelings of ambivalence about pregnancy and motherhood. No doubt about it, motherhood will change your life like nothing else. You may be worried that you won't know how to be a good mother, especially if you haven't spent much time around babies. "You don't need know everything there is to know about parenting right now," says Dr. Niebyl. "But if you're really worried, start reading parenting books -- in nine months you can learn a lot," she adds.

  • Worries about how your body will change. A pregnant woman is strong and beautiful -- repeat this to yourself several times a day -- it's the truth. If you need more convincing, consider signing up for a prenatal fitness class -- being with other women who are in the same "shape" as you might help you feel more comfortable about your body.

  • Fears about your baby's health. Take some comfort in the fact that the odds are on your side. "Ninety-seven percent of babies are born healthy," says Dr. Niebyl. If you're overly concerned about your baby's health, talk with your caregiver about the range of prenatal testing that is available to you. "There are many abnormalities we can test for, but half of all birth defects are diagnosed in the delivery room," says Dr. Niebyl.

  • Concerns about the pain of labor and childbirth. If this is your first pregnancy, you may wonder how you'll handle labor. If your friends and family have warned you that the pain is unlike anything else you've ever experienced, you're probably more than a little bit alarmed. "It's important to plan ahead, to think about labor before it actually begins, so you have your own information and not just everyone else's," says Dr. Niebyl. "We have good pain relief available these days, so don't be embarrassed to ask for it." Also be sure to sign up for a childbirth preparation class a few months before your due date (ask your caregiver or call your hospital for a recommendation). You may be surprised at how much peace of mind just educating yourself about your options will bring over the next few weeks or months.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.

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