Am I a pregnancy hypochondriac?
The worst part is though that my SIL (my husband’s sister) is some sort of super woman who has had three kids and sailed through each pregnancy and birth without a single medical complaint (or that’s what she reckons, anyway). She’s constantly saying things like: “Heartburn? Well I went for a walk after dinner each night and I never had heartburn” or: “If you changed your diet you probably wouldn’t keep getting thrush”. It is driving me crazy!!!
She’s always a competitive person, so I guess she’s keen to prove that she has “better” pregnancies or something. Usually I wouldn’t let her comments get to me – I generally just say something like: “well, everyone’s different you know”. DH can’t see what I’m stressing about. But I’m hormonal and a bit emotional and she’s got me at the point now that I’m not sure whether my symptoms are real or whether I’m being a hypochondriac. Help! What can I do??
Agh, family dynamics can be a bit tricky at the best of times, and that can be magnified when a life-changing event such as pregnancy is involved. You have already hit the nail on the head though, in that every person and every pregnancy is different – your sister-in-law is going to have quite a different experience of pregnancy (and parenthood, for that matter) to you.
My advice would be to remove the opportunity for your sister in law to compare, by not mentioning your symptoms to her – get an unbiased third-party opinion instead! With that in mind I have asked Bernice Gray, the helpline co-ordinator for the government’s new Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline – Healthdirect.org.au - for some tips. Bernice is also a midwife and registered nurse with over twenty years experience in the pregnancy and peri natal field.
“Every pregnancy is difference whether it’s the first or the fifth,” she says. “No two women are going to have exactly the same experiences, so comments that compare one pregnancy to another often aren’t helpful.”
“Pregnancy is such an emotional, hormonal time and often we can become upset about things that in the usual course of events we’d just take on the chin or ignore. That’s because, apart from the hormones, it’s not just ourselves that we’re concerned about during pregnancy - there is a new little life inside us and a lot of our anxiety is for their wellbeing.”
Jenn, Bernice encourages you that getting some third party support and reassurance can often help to put everything into perspective. “Women are verbal – more so than men,” she says. “And it can be wonderful to talk to other women about anything pregnancy-related that you’re not sure about or which you need reassurance about.” So Jenn, if you’re not getting that support and reassurance from your immediate circle … then look further afield!
“It’s important for parents and parent-to-be to know that there’s help at the end of the telephone,” says Bernice. “Often women just need reassurance and some moral support, and they can pick up the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to speak to someone, whether that is a counsellor, a psychologist or a medical professional. And they can ring as often as they like, all throughout the pregnancy and after.”
So Jenn, in summary I think these are your options:
A: Do what your SIL has possibly been doing throughout her three pregnancies and lie! Pretend that you have no adverse symptoms whatsoever and that everything is perfect, or
B: Take it on the chin and give your SIL the satisfaction of being superior – she’ll probably love you all the more for it!!
C: Explain to her that her comments are upsetting you – and if she continues anyway then avoid her for the next few months!
And whichever option you choose, consider taking advantage of the helpline (1800 882 436) for a bit of a vent and a dose of reassurance!
Do you have any advice for Jenn? Comment on Justine's blog.