Pregnancy after loss can be a deeply challenging, yet not uncommon experience. Up to 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in a loss, and many will go on to conceive again after loss.
As common as this experience is, it can feel isolating, especially in the vulnerable early weeks before you share the news of your pregnancy with friends and family. As a team of mamas and perinatal health practitioners, we have been there. We’re walking alongside you on the journey through pregnancy after loss, and are sharing our top 5 tips for navigating this experience with as much ease as possible.
Seek out the reassurance you need
A misconception about pregnancy loss is that you are somehow more likely to experience more loss in future pregnancies. It’s important to remember that each pregnancy is different and unless you have a specific diagnosis that raises your likelihood of recurrent pregnancy loss, chances are you will go on to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. While it may be comforting to learn that each pregnancy is different, it doesn’t keep the fear of another loss out of your mind. The reason why you may feel fearful in a subsequent pregnancy is because of your experience with pregnancy and miscarriage.
It’s perfectly okay to advocate for the reassurance you need, even if you’ve “only” experienced one loss, and your practitioner does not routinely recommend extra monitoring.
If your OB-GYN or midwife isn’t on board with extra HCG or progesterone testing or ultrasounds, find a practitioner who will be understanding. If you love your provider, you don’t have to make a permanent switch. Just take whatever steps are needed to give yourself the reassurance that you need. For example, you can book a private ultrasound at a sonography clinic (you can go as frequently as weekly if that helps!) and order your own lab work.
Be gentle with yourself as milestone dates approach
Milestone dates like the due date of your last pregnancy, or the gestational age of when your last pregnancy ended can be tough and triggering. They can also create feelings of confusion when thinking about both babies that you’ve carried.
It’s important to note that you can feel excited about the baby you are carrying while grieving the baby you lost. And, if you don’t feel immediately excited about this baby or pregnancy, that’s understandable, too. Just as not every mother feels “love at first sight” upon meeting her baby at birth, our experiences of bonding with baby before they are born can vary greatly. It doesn’t mean you won’t feel a deep bond with your baby in due time.
In moments where you are struggling with connecting to your pregnancy or where you are feeling guilty for loving the baby that you are currently carrying, remember that babies don’t replace babies and it’s okay to love both of them. When you are feeling heightened grief during your pregnancy after loss journey, it’s because that grief or guilt is misplaced love. As a mother, you worry that you are putting one child over the other but the truth is that life after pregnancy loss is far more complicated than most people realize.
Some advice on navigating these hard days is to find a way to honor the baby that you lost while also preparing for the baby that you are pregnant with. You can do this by purchasing rainbow-themed items for the nursery, having a moment of silence for the baby that you lost, or by having things in your home that represent all of your children (artwork, jewelry, etc.).
Talk to your practitioner and partner about how you are feeling so they can best support you.
It’s important to speak with your doctor regularly about how you are handling pregnancy after loss, especially if you have anxiety around certain gestations or appointments, your doctor can help assess your needs moving forward. Another person that it’s important to communicate with is your partner. Bring them on your journey of coping with pregnancy after loss, but also remember that they may not have the same triggers or trauma as you have. Our partners grieve differently and usually the partner that wasn’t physically experiencing pregnancy and miscarriage may feel differently about their grief following loss and excitement of another pregnancy. Creating time in your day or week to check in and openly discuss how you are each handling being pregnant again is a great exercise. Our advice would be to give each other grace and hold judgment-free space for each of you to share how you’re feeling at any given moment while pregnant.
Communicate on your own terms
You don’t have to tell anyone about your pregnancy unless you absolutely want to. At the same time, talking to others who have been there can really help.
Setting boundaries can be very healthy as you navigate the many emotions that come with pregnancy after loss. In case you need to hear it, you don’t owe anyone any information about your pregnancy. It is entirely your experience to share, if and when you choose to.
At the same time, there are communities of women navigating this experience that we want to bring light to. These resources have been tremendously helpful to us, and we hope you’ll find them to be of help to you.
- Pregnancy After Loss Support a website, smartphone app, and IG community focused on supporting pregnancy after loss
- The Miscarrriage Doula a small group coaching practice and IG community led by Arden Cartrette, a miscarriage doula and loss mama
- I Had a Miscarriage a memoir and IG community founded by Dr. Jessica Zucker, PhD, a perinatal psychologist and loss mama
- Expectful our favorite perinatal mediation app with modules tailored by trimester and addressing a wide range of topics including anxiety about loss
It’s okay to wish you were at the end of your pregnancy, not the beginning.
No matter how far along you were when your loss occurred, having to “start over” in your pregnancy journey after loss can feel deeply unfair. Nobody wants to repeat the first trimester, especially through bouts of nausea, fatigue, and anxiety.
You can be grateful for another chance at a healthy pregnancy, and still wish that you were closer to meeting your baby than you are presently.