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Know Your Company Culture. Contact a new mother in your office who can tell you her experiences, such as how she was treated after returning from maternity leave. For instance, Crawford says one manager expressed disappointment with a woman for not checking in weekly while she was out on leave. Knowing this can help you to avoid unnecessary grief when you return to work.
Communicate Your Plans Clearly With Your Supervisor and HR. Crawford shares the example of one woman who was fired because an HR official did not know the details of her maternity leave. To avoid such a scenario, email a letter to your boss (and cc your HR rep), outlining when you’ll take maternity leave, when you plan to return, who is taking over unfinished or ongoing projects for you and how often (if at all) you’ll be checking in during your leave.
3. Your Health: When normal concern becomes high anxiety.
Clearly, combating a serious medical issue, such as cancer or lupus, when pregnant will tax you physically and mentally. You will need support from your partner, family, friends and a good obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. And if you are on bed rest, online groups like the pregnancy support network Sidelines (sidelines.org) can be a lifesaver. But what if you freak out over every minor but often scary pregnancy symptom, such as spotting or Braxton-Hicks contractions? Khalil Tabsh, M.D., professor and chief of obstetrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who has 34 years of experience in managing high-risk OB patients, advises the following for overanxious patients:
Learn As Much As Possible. Sure, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and similar books can bombard you with information on serious issues, but they can also outline what is absolutely normal and put your mind at ease. Just make sure the books and websites you go to are by authoritative sources, such as government health organizations and universities, and steer clear of fear-inducing information from laypeople.
if You’re Panicking, Call Your Doctor Or Midwife Anyway. “There’s a lot to be said for maternal instinct and listening to your concerns,” Tabsh says. “Going in for an evaluation will help you learn how to discern true emergencies.”
Don’t Try To Manage Your Own Care. This is especially important if you do develop a medical condition. “For instance, the patient diagnosed with gestational diabetes who decides to manage her high blood sugars by severely restricting her diet (rather than by taking insulin if needed) is endangering her fetus,” Tabsh says. (For information on discontinuing antidepressants or similar meds during pregnancy, see “Should you Stop your Psych Meds?”)
Get Help If You Dread Delivery. A Swedish study found that women with tocophobia—an extreme fear of childbirth— who received counseling, delivered vaginally without forceps or vacuum intervention only 51 percent of the time, compared with 75 percent for the women who had no fears. The tocophobia sufferers requested elective Cesarean sections 30 percent of the time (compared with 4 percent for the women with no fears), and also had more emergency C-sections.
The researchers noted that most women with a deep-seated fear of childbirth are not only worried about pain, but also about losing control and being unable to “persevere mentally or physically.” Experts say it’s imperative that such women talk about their fears with a supportive mentor, such as a midwife or doula, join a support group and/or undergo psychotherapy.