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How to Pray When You Are Anxious About Your High Risk Pregnancy

Updated: Jun 22

How to Pray When You Are Anxious About Your High Risk Pregnancy

By Rachelle Keng, MD

anxious pregnancy, high risk pregnancy, pregnancy complication, scared pregnant woman, how to pray
Pregnant and anxious? High risk pregnancy? Find peace in Psalm 23.

Are you facing a diagnosis that you didn't expect during your pregnancy? Pre-eclampsia? Diabetes? Preterm labor? Intrauterine fetal growth restriction? An abnormal ultrasound finding or genetic result?

Most expecting parents feel derailed when they get an unexpected diagnosis, followed by a rapid question firing to understand why.

Why did this happen? What will happen from here?

They usually want to understand each scenario to understand all of the possibilities. Understandably, knowing all of the hypotheticals helps them feel prepared for this curveball. Preparation helps us feel in control in situations where we have little control. 

Pregnancy is the perfect equation for anxiety:

Love + Fear of Loss + Out of Control = Overwhelming Anxiety

Pregnancy is an overwhelming anxiety machine. Only the bravest sign up for this job, not knowing all of the anxiety that comes with it. In pregnancy, there is little control over what is happening to her body or to her baby.

So if you're one of these women facing the sleepless nights and rapidly spiraling downward into your thoughts - if you’re consumed with wondering if your baby is going to be okay, or how your other children are going to manage while you’re out of commission, or if you can make it financially with all of the lost days of work, or if your body is going to be able to get through one more day, or if these contractions will ever stop -

Then take a moment with me to just.... breathe.

I’m no yoga guru or mindfulness champion, but I believe that your breath connects you to what is. 

So inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.

In this moment of connecting with your breath, you are living in the present. In the present, you can cut out the noise - the lie that is whispered into your ear of “You aren’t made for this…You can’t do this….”  Tell this inner critic and the peanut gallery that there is purpose in this diagnosis and you were made for this.

And then maybe, just maybe, you will begin to see the gifts of a high risk pregnancy:

You learn to just be. You can’t eat less salt for pre-eclampsia or eat more calories for a growth restricted baby. Sometimes rest isn’t enough to stop preterm contractions. In pregnancy it isn’t what you do, for pregnancy reminds us we are human BEings. 

You learn to wait. You may sit strapped to a non-stress test (NST) machine twice a week while everyone else gets to go their merry prego way. You are learning to die to mommy comparison now, and trust me, it pays off in the long run.

You learn to be flexible. You may go to Labor and Delivery for many evaluations where delivery is an imminent threat only to be sent home a few hours later, exhausted and relieved. But your flexibility to go with what your children need is going to help you be a great mother.

You learn to trust in someone greater than yourself. A high risk pregnancy brings us to the end of ourselves and begs the deeper questions about where the divine starts. You may not know what will happen tomorrow, but do you know who holds tomorrow?

God is best at catching those who know they need someone to catch them. 

There is nothing like a high risk pregnancy that brings us to our knees. But on this cold linoleum, surrender is power. For it is the meekness of a little lamb, dependent on her Shepherd that gives her the freedom to roam without a care in the world. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from performance. 

Psalm 23 is a beloved passage that speaks of the Lord as our shepherd, guiding and comforting us through the valleys and shadows of life. But Psalm 23 can also be a guide for how to pray through high risk obstetric situations that overwhelm the soul. Let's take a closer look at this powerful psalm for those who are facing obstetric detours.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing." (Psalm 23:1)

You can pray: Jesus, I feel like my body is not doing what it is "supposed to do." I feel like I'm lacking a lot actually. But you say that as my Shepherd, I am a sheep who lacks nothing. Let me be content grazing in this field while you care for my baby and me - today and tomorrow. Let this pregnancy not be about what I can do, what I haven’t done, or what I need to do. Let this pregnancy be about what you are doing in me.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul." (Psalm 23:2-3)

You can pray: Jesus, I don’t want to lie down. I’m tired of lying down. That’s all I do these days and that is all I can do. I have too much to do. And yet you are offering me rest. You are inviting me to smell the freshness of the soft grass that you have created. You delight in me hearing the bubbling brook where quietness is cherished. You refresh my soul through this waiting, not the rushing. You know what my child needs to grow and you know what my soul needs to grow. Help me to find this place of calm as refreshing rather than suffocating.

"He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

You can pray: I want this path to be for my sake and for my baby’s sake. But maybe the “right” path is for your name’s sake. I may not ever understand why this pregnancy is so difficult, but I know you are leading me on this right path for my good and for your glory. Help me to want your name glorified over mine.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)

You can pray: This is a dark valley. I know there’s a light at the end, but it does not feel like it right now. Yet even in this valley, you help me to not be afraid. Your presence is enough and a comfort to me. With a rod, you protect me against the enemy, even when the enemy is myself. With your staff, you guide my next step. Let your presence be enough through the valley.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:5)

You can pray: An operating room table? This does not seem like the table that I want to be on. But even in my most vulnerable place, your goodness will be with me. Your love will follow me. My home is in the house of the Lord while this baby makes its home in me. You will care for me today and always. 

A high risk pregnancy is unpredictable for mamas and their babies. In these moments we want reassurance that everything is going to turn out okay. And most of the time, it does turn out okay. But while you wait, let the words of the Good Shepherd remind you that you are not alone.

In John 10:11-12, Jesus says  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  He knows something about laying down a life for someone else. 

As you lay down your life for your baby, Jesus lays down His life for you. May your worrying turn into worship. May your wallowing turn into adoration. For He holds you and your baby. My friend, He will not let you go.

If you want to read more devotions for the anxious pregnant and postpartum soul, check out Rachelle's new book on amazon called, "Woven in the Womb: Peace for the Pregnant and Postpartum Soul."


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