Why We Worry

What parents need to feel reassured: Information


There's no better time to worry than when it's related to our health or children. When we're pregnant, that's a two-fer. We worry about both. All too often though, maternal worry is downplayed as a cute little mommy thing. I hate that. I remember vividly the condescension I felt when I went to a prominent pediatrician with my second newborn and I had a flaming yeast infection in my breast. When I voiced my concern about feeding my daughter and adequate milk production, the doctor/jerk, actually patted me on the head and said, "Don't worry. You're a good Mommy." I'm proud of myself that I said, "I didn't ask you whether I was a good Mommy. I said I was worried about milk production. Can you answer that concern? And, don't ever pat me on the head again. I'm not a child." He answered with a curt, "You'll be fine." I never went back to that doctor again though he was pediatrician-to-the-stars with a stellar reputation. Whatever.

Sometimes, worry is valuable. It's our primal emotional link telling us something is not right. Sure, I can over-worry with the best of them where my kids are concerned but most of the time, my worry-level is right on target. It allows me to focus, plan, figure out and solve what might otherwise be intangible. When someone hears our concern then flicks it off like a nasty booger, even when done with a kind tone of voice, that's not OK.

Jenn wrote with a solid worry. She's heading into her third trimester and noticed blood in her urine. She went to her doctor who did some tests and told her everything was OK and Not To Worry. Is this something they teach doctors in medical school? If you tell your patient Not To Worry then they won't. Yeah right! When someone tells me Not To Worry, it just means they're not worried. They don't plan on spending any more time on this. Sometimes they're right. Sometimes, they're not. Most of the time though, if a doctor tells you Not To Worry and you don't feel reassured, you need more information.

In Jenn's situation, blood in the urine might or might not be something to worry about. It could be infection, kidney or bladder problems. Or not. It could be just something her body does when it's pregnant. It's not common though and Jenn still feels worried. Therefore, Jenn wrote me for reassurance. Jenn, honey, I wish I could tell you exactly why you have blood in your urine and that you're guaranteed OK. Sorry, I can't. What I can say is this. Make an appointment with your doctor specifically to talk to him/her about this worry. Tell him you want more information about why he/she's not worried about the blood. Get more information. If you're still not feeling reassured, tell your doctor you want a second opinion with a urologist—that's a kidney and bladder specialist. There are a number of diagnostic tests that are entirely safe during pregnancy that rule out certain diseases. There's a good chance the urologist will find nothing specific wrong either. It's amazing how, even in this day of advanced medical knowledge, the answer is often an educated, "Huh. I don't know what's wrong." At least that's an honest answer.

Some patients worry too much. I've taken care of plenty of women who are oversensitive to every little thing and are certain they're dying when actually, it's nothing significant. Most of us, however, aren't like that but if you are, you need more information about handling anxiety STAT. You and your kids will get sick but most colds aren't pneumonia and most headaches aren't brain tumors. Raising kids is a worry-filled profession. If you have an anxiety syndrome, get help. You don't want to bring that kind of stress on your children. There's a balance between being a healthy worrier and being a panic-parent. Find that balance.

I had a gal come to the hospital once because she felt regular, spasmodic percussions in her massively pregnant belly. It happened several times a day and had been going on for weeks. She'd mentioned it to her doctor who said, "You're fine. Don't worry." She was sure, however, something was terribly wrong. She needed more information. I evaluated her and sure enough, she had regular, spasmodic percussions. Her baby had hiccups. She burst into tears when I told her this. The relief and a certain amount of shame were intense. She'd never been pregnant before and if her doctor had taken the time to tell her, "Oh yeah, that's baby hiccups," she wouldn't have been worried or embarrassed. Poor girl. Pregnancy is tough enough without being flicked off.

Jenn, if you don't feel like you're getting what you need from your doctor, find other ways to get it. Get a good book about pregnancy, read magazines and try a little Internet research. Armed with a basic pregnancy education and a good doctor, you can better evaluate what's worth worrying about and what's just annoying. When all else fails, find another doctor who'll listen and give you the information you need. Don't settle for condescension and a standard Don't Worry. As a parent, your job is to advocate for your child's health. Your doctor's job is to take care of you by taking the time to educate, evaluate, listen and reassure. They're crazy busy but they must make time for you. You and your concerns are important. Too many people say, "I don't want to bother my doctor." Remember, you and your insurance provider are paying him/her. They're not doing you a favor. It's their job.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.