women who know too much

Is ignorance bliss, or knowledge power?

I spent most of my first trimester convinced I was about to have a miscarriage, and no amount of cajoling or logic could convince me otherwise. “After all,” I’d tell my husband, holding aloft a best-selling pregnancy tome, “two of my symptoms are on the list of the 15 signs to watch out for, and see, the medical text I checked out of the library last week says that one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and oh, yeah, I read online about a woman who lost her baby but didn’t know it for weeks and weeks. So of course I’m having a miscarriage.” And I’d burst into tears.

To his credit, my husband didn’t actually burn the books, take away my library card or unplug the computer, but I’m sure he wished he could. “Stop reading that stuff,” he’d plead. “Can’t you just trust your instincts?”

I couldn’t. This was my first pregnancy, and I had no idea what my body was doing. I felt out of control, and the only way I could regain a semblance of it was to gather as much information as possible. It didn’t work. The only thing that did was feeling the baby move.

The right amount of information

In my case, a little knowledge was a dangerous thing. For others, however, it can be a literal lifesaver. Deb Frey miscarried her first pregnancy at 11 weeks. Two months later, she was pregnant again. After reading everything she could about getting and staying pregnant, she decided to chart her temperature. (She had read that the temperature rise most women experience after conception is due to an increase in the hormone progesterone, which helps to maintain a pregnancy.) When she saw that her temperature wasn’t high enough, she asked her doctor to test her progesterone levels. Sure enough, she had a problem.

“I [was prescribed] progesterone suppositories, and my levels went up to where they were supposed to be,” Frey says. “I, as well as my doctors, believe that had I not requested the test, I would not have my beautiful year-old daughter today.”

The same books that nearly ruined my pregnancy experience saved hers. What does that say for other pregnant women? Is ignorance bliss? Or is knowledge power? Obviously, the decision about how much to know is a very personal one.

Just the facts, ma’am

The benefits of arming yourself with information are

obvious. Caught early enough, some potentially dangerous complications can be sidestepped. Or you can finally sit back and relax. “The more knowledge I had, the more control and power I felt I had,” says Elise NeeDell Babcock, a Houston-based speaker on health-care issues and author of When Life Becomes Precious (Bantam, 1997). Babcock experienced a few miscarriages and lost a baby 26 weeks into her pregnancy before giving birth to her daughter, now 3.

But if, like me, you’re the type who obsesses, you might want to limit yourself. “Read only the facts,” says Babcock. “Don’t listen to horror stories. In the end, you need to take the information, put it on the top shelf in your brain, and then simply enjoy your pregnancy.”