Parijat Deshpande is the leading integrative high-risk pregnancy specialist, somatic trauma professional, speaker, and author who guides women to improve their pregnancy complications so they can reduce their risk of preterm birth. Her unique neurobiological approach has served hundreds of women to manage pregnancy complications and reclaim a safety and trust in their bodies that they thought was eroded forever. Parijat is the author of bestselling book Pregnancy Brain: A Mind-Body Approach to Stress Management During a High-Risk Pregnancy. She is also the host of the popular podcast Delivering Miracles®️, that discusses the real, raw side of family-building including infertility, loss, high-risk pregnancy, bed rest, prematurity and healing once baby comes home.
We spoke with Parijat about her work and perspective on healing from pregnancy-related trauma, overcoming the label 'high-risk', and how best to advocate for your complete health including mind, body and heart.
What is the Path to Baby program and why did you develop it? How do you define "high-risk"?
The Path to Baby™️ program is my signature integrative health program teaching women how to navigate the medical system, heal from their traumas from their family-building journey, and create neurobiological shifts in their body to reduce their risk of pregnancy complications and preterm delivery.
The term “high-risk” is a vague, umbrella term to describe any pregnancy that is at added risk for pregnancy complications (maternal and fetal). This can be due to age, previous medical history (related or unrelated to fertility or pregnancy), carrying multiples, and various other factors. The clients I work with in the Path to Baby™️ program are “high-risk” because of their history of second or third trimester loss and/or preterm delivery.
Do we know trauma affects physical outcomes? And if so, why aren’t more doctors warning us?
Yes, we know that chronic stress and traumatic stress impact physical outcomes during and outside of pregnancy including an increased risk of pregnancy complications and preterm delivery to the risk of cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, digestive problems, insomnia, chronic pain, and much more.
Patients are surprised to learn this because their physicians are not discussing this with them, primarily because most medical providers are unaware of this connection. This is not included in traditional Western medicine training so many medical providers are operating with incomplete and outdated definitions of what stress is and how to relieve it (for example, just relax or don’t worry so much), and are not aware of the physiology of chronic/traumatic stress and its impact on health.
What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about therapy and high-risk pregnancy?
The biggest misconception, I believe, is that by changing your thoughts you can heal your previous pregnancy trauma or support your body to have a healthy pregnancy. Stress is not a cognitive or emotional issue, though it has cognitive and emotional components. It is a physiological chain reaction as a response to a threat that happens outside of cognitive and conscious awareness. When we can support the body, we can complete the stress cycle.
Can you offer us a piece of advice you might give a pregnant person post-high-risk pregnancy?
Trust your gut. You know when a recommendation doesn’t feel right to you or is not aligned with your values. You know when someone is being a “good enough” doctor but you don’t feel safe around them. You know when something is not right with your body (though you may not know exactly what). Trust that. Trust all of that. You are the expert on your body, even if it’s your first pregnancy. Trust your expertise and surround yourself with team members who trust you as much as you trust you.
Is there anything pregnant people could do during pregnancy that could prevent their pregnancies from developing into high-risk territory?
Having a healthy diet, exercise regimen, and a healthy nervous system are essential, as does stopping smoking, drinking alcohol, or using recreational drugs. Regular prenatal care appointments and taking the right supplements for your body also are important. However, sometimes we cannot prevent going into the high-risk category, for example, if you are over the age of 35 or carrying twins or pregnant after cancer.
Many, many women who are labeled high risk will go on to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery a healthy baby at term. The category in and of itself does not define the outcome.
Instead of focusing on the label “high risk”, keep your attention on your health and healthcare. What do you need to do, adjust, add on, or tweak to optimize your health and your healthcare team to help you have a healthy pregnancy and stack the deck in your favor to deliver a healthy baby?
What is the one thing you wish more pregnant people understood about their emotional health?
Emotional health is inextricably tied to physical health, so sometimes what we consider an “emotional” problem (like trauma) will show up in the body instead of through emotions, as we’re traditionally expected to experience. At the core of both is the health of your nervous system, Body-based work is extremely powerful to get to the root so you can experience long-term relief.
Learn more about Parijat Deshpande and her work here and follow her on Instagram @healthy.highriskpregnancy.