From the moment the pregnancy test says positive life changes. Pregnancy can be a joyous occasion but a world can turn upside down when you are told that there is a pregnancy complication; the baby has a problem, the mummy-to-be has a problem or the pregnancy complication starts to risk the lives of the mother or baby.

We were over the moon when my wife told me her pregnancy test was positive. We had put off having children for over 10 years and mummy-to-be was blessed to fall pregnant very quickly, but a pregnancy complication started a string of events that means even though we now have a 3 month old bouncing baby, she will always need extra care. Some of the conditions that she has will be the ones that I will talk about in the early editions of this article. Many new dads will forget that their loved one is going through a difficult time even if there is no pregnancy complication; a little love and care during pregnancy can be as joyous as seeing a baby for the first time.

It is important to note that I have no medical experience and my work here is based on our own research and experiences. We have a beautiful baby girl now, but pregnancy complication and other factors have meant that she has been a poorly little girl at times.

Top Tip 1 – Don’t Panic About A Pregnancy Complication

When the doctor gives you the news that there is the problem with your pregnancy you will feel like the world is against you. Although it is the most difficult thing to say; don’t panic. Most problems found in a pregnancy can be treatable or can even resolve themselves during pregnancy itself such as enlarged ventricles (ventriculomegaly) where mild examples are perfectly able to normalise across a wider window of pregnancy than medical professionals prefer. In the case of ventriculomegaly this is found in around 1% of ultrasound scans[2926] and the development of the baby to have severe complications is minimal[2927] but doctors still have to be worried as fetal medicine is never a perfect science.

Another example of such developmental concern is Agnesis of the Corpus Callosum; where the matter which separates the two sides of a baby’s brain does not form. We were referred during pregnancy to a fetal medicine specialist because of this however found that the corpus callosum was merely late developing.

Top Tip 2 – Research

Along with the panic of being told something is wrong you might find that your doctor makes references to the pregnancy issues that they have found. It would be understandable for a mum-to-be to find that anything said after “there is a problem” will become one big mess, and there is always Internet resources that will help you find out a little more in the comfort of your home or work. Wikipedia is usually a good start for such research as the web pages are often designed to be accessible to the widest range of readers.

Although doctors are very good at telling you about your pregnancy complication, it might be that you have a new question that you don’t want to wait to ask. I did this post-birth when the ventriculomegaly was deemed as non-threatening until 10 weeks later when our daughter was diagnosed with hydrocephalus which we knew was a relatively slim but possible outcome[2928]; and she was transferred to a neurosurgery ward the same day for an emergency procedure.

Top Tip 3 – Make a Pregnancy Diary

Even for the pregnancy that is straight forward, keeping a pregnancy diary of events can be something of a maternal keepsake as well as a potentially essential log of information for any pregnancy complication. There are a number of problems that might not be immediately obvious during the pregnancy that a diary might pick up; such as gestational diabetes which although can be identified through urine samples can be identified as a possibility earlier and noting any warning signs can prove influential in this.

It’s important that a mummy-to-be attends all her ante-natal and fetal appointments. This allows the medical staff to monitor for the majority of pregnancy complication and so although these appointments are usually found within the documentation that British expectant mothers are given, putting these in the same diary with observations can only be just as helpful. For those that need extra attention, such as injections for being rhesus negative[2929]; documenting any reactions to these will always aid in any investigatory work and if comprehensive will help in justifying to an inconclusive doctor why you don’t really need a few days in hospital for observations.

Top Tip 4 – Keep An Open Mind

When you have researched for any conditions that might have been mentioned it is easy to be concerned for the future of the unborn baby. Having a pregnancy complication does not mean that there will be a long-term problem or that there is a certainty of a conditions worst case scenario. One concern that we researched as part of the ventriculomegaly was that once the brain starts to form in the way we all know brains, that in our case it would not happen and this indicates that life outlook would not be very good. You should always keep at the back of your mind what the worst case scenario of any pregnancy complication could be; we knew that a MRI scan at 30 weeks could lead to a decision that we would have to endure a medical termination a few weeks later, as well as a further pregnancy complication meant that we received counselling as a further pregnancy complication meant we risked needing a termination as late as 36 weeks, something which only two hospitals in the UK undertake as a last resort.

Having a pregnancy complication though is not something you should dwell on with every waking hour, as we have already mentioned above having a pregnancy complication is not always something that needs to cause panic.

Our little girl at a day old.Credit: Darren Whittenham-GrayIt must also be remembered that if there is any pregnancy complication that requires a premature delivery of the baby, care will be provided in a neo-natal unit, usually until the original due date. This is a standard procedure to make sure that the baby is not at risk of infection in those critical first weeks and because development is not necessarily complete, hindering a baby’s ability to feed or defend itself. If your baby is admitted directly to the neo-natal unit, you must make sure that when they leave you know exactly what has, or has not been done in terms of inoculations and tests that would usually be undertaken at home by your health visitor.

Top Tip 5 – A Pregnancy Complication Comes First – Be Prepared

As soon as you know that you have a pregnancy complication it is wise to be ready. It is possible that the next time you go to an appointment you will find yourself being admitted to a hospital ward and this happened to us several times so far. In our most frantic of appointments we knew that the outcome of the ultrasound scan would be booking an elective caesarean section for the safety of mummy-to-be; which quickly went from  “we will look at booking you in about 4 weeks time” to “you are going to be giving birth tomorrow”.

Even in the most minor of a pregnancy complication, it is possible for this to snowball quickly and having a bag of overnight essentials packed and easily to hand will help prevent the stress and cost of sending daddy-to-be to the hospital shopping arcade.

If you have been referred outside the normal ante-natal process because of a pregnancy complication, it may also be that there is a need to pack parent and baby bags for any later follow up appointments. It was during an outpatient’s appointment for our little girl that the consultant noticed tell-tale signs of fluid pressure on the brain. She was admitted that night and treated for hydrocephalus as we mentioned earlier.

When you consider our experience, we were dreadfully unlucky that our little girl fell so very sick. Even now as I write this she is 15 weeks and still weighs less than 7lbs; half what would be expected from a baby born full-term. We still look forward though and even if my wife or I have to quit our jobs to become full-time carers we will stay strong because of these tips and many more. We hope that you never have to face the day where a doctor tells you that there is a pregnancy complication, but with these tips hopefully you will be able to make the best of what can be a hugely difficult time.