Dear Dr Mitchell,
I am 20 weeks pregnant and extremely stressed as I have recently discovered that my fiancé also has another woman pregnant at the same time. I have been unable to eat or sleep and have bouts of crying, and I even fainted once. I am worried about the effect this stress will have on my baby, but I can't seem to cope. Can you help allay my fears? Will the stress negatively affect my baby?
I am truly sorry to learn about the unfortunate situation with your partner and his infidelity. Stressful life situations can have a negative effect on your health and consequently result in problems for your unborn baby.
The fact that you have been so stressed that you are not eating properly and are not get enough sleep is very significant. Poor nutrition can result in insufficient nutrients being available for the adequate growth and development of the foetus. This can result in dehydration, depletion in the vitamins that you would normally get from a balanced diet, and an overall low intake of all the important nutrients for your baby to develop and grow in the uterus. The foetus needs important nutrients for brain development and growth and relies entirely on your intake.
Stressful situations can also result in hypertension in pregnancy and this can have a negative effect on the growth and development of the baby. In severe cases, uncontrolled blood pressure can result in premature delivery with all its associated risks for the baby. It can also cause premature separation of the placenta and death of the baby in some cases.
However, the foetus is relatively protected if the duration of the insult is short-lived, so it is important to deal with the problem at hand. The fact that your fiancé has been sexually active with someone who is now pregnant confirms that he is having unprotected sexual activity and this puts you at risk for major sexually transmitted infections such as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Syphilis and Hepatitis B infection in pregnancy. It is important for you to get a repeat test done for these infections. The test is normally done at the beginning of the pregnancy and repeated again at 28 weeks in all patients.
If you decide to continue with the relationship then you need to use condoms (male or female) to reduce your risk of exposure. Your partner should also get himself tested and also do a repeat test six weeks, and then three months later.
It is important for you to get help from a counsellor or your pastor in paving the way forward in this relationship. If it is that he wants to continue the relationship with the other woman, then you have to decide if this is a situation that you can live with. However, you have to allow him to be responsible and honour his obligation to care for the other woman in the pregnancy and be there for the child at birth and beyond since this is his responsibility.
It is important for you to try as quickly as possible to get back to caring for yourself in the pregnancy to ensure that you and your baby will be healthy. It helps if you stop internalising the problem and discuss it with your parents or close family members who can help you to deal with the problem and move on with your life. If it is that your partner has moved on with this other woman and does not want to be in a relationship with you, then you should insist on him being a responsible father and care for the child, even if he has to be forced to do this through the courts.
Consult your pastor or a professional counsellor and encourage your fiancé to be a part of the session so that you can move forward in a way that works best for all involved.
Dr Sharmaine Mitchell is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave, Kingston 5; or fax to 876-968-2025. All responses are published. Dr Mitchell cannot provide personal responses.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only, and must not be relied upon as an alternative to medical advice or treatment from your own doctor.