Going through another pregnancy after experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, often presents mixed feelings of grief and excitement. There's no doubt the parents to be can feel a sense of guilt for being excited at the thought of bringing a new life into this world. What’s important to understand, however, is that while pregnancy after loss is undoubtedly difficult, it is manageable with the right tools, resources and support system.
It’s also important to remember that a rainbow baby, a term coined to represent the new healthy life of a baby following a recent loss, is not a replacement baby. Being pregnant with a new baby is merely adding a new member to the family, not replacing one with another.
And while adding another member to the family will not entirely alleviate the grief parents go through, it can certainly bring some much-needed optimism and faith to the family unit.
While we can appreciate the difficulty that comes with the loss of a baby, we believe that having the opportunity to become pregnant following the loss can bring a lot of joy and new perspectives to a grieving couple. So, if you're looking for tips on how to deal with pregnancy after loss, or how to make the difficult decision to become pregnant again, continue reading below.
Pregnancy after loss is a significant life event that can affect everyone involved, in many different ways. There can be a discrepancy in feelings ranging from excitement and joy to sadness and guilt. But the most important thing to remember is that if the family can come together through this heart-rendering and emotional time, it can make the experience much more comfortable and exciting. But even with access to a healthy support system, the parents may still be affected by many different and confusing feelings. We will discuss them in greater detail below.
When a pregnant woman goes through the traumatic loss of a baby, it can cause deep feelings of worry that any future pregnancy or life of an infant could be cut short again. This is a natural response to losing a loved one as the perception of life shifts to one that contains more skepticism and fear.
They may become more hyper-vigilant of the idea that life is not guaranteed and that all future pregnancies have a high chance of ending with the same fate. But the truth is, nearly 85% of women go on to have a healthy pregnancy after a miscarriage. Even more, 75% of women with two or three miscarriages go on to have successful pregnancies.
As difficult as it can be to put forth a positive mindset filled with happiness and joy, it may help to know that while the loss of a pregnancy or infant is tragic, the chances of it happening again are relatively low. Despite these optimistic and promising statistics, pregnant women may still worry throughout the entire pregnancy, until they feel like they are out of the woods.
Below are a few common triggers that pregnant women struggle with during pregnancy following a loss:
This is one of the more common reasons women contemplate moving forward with another pregnancy following a loss. What makes this guilt even more heavyweight is that women not only feel guilty for trying again, but they also feel guilty for the previous loss.
So, in essence, they carry two different types of guilt when they become pregnant again. While all OB-GYNs and Midwives will reassure women that most pregnancy losses are out of their control and not their fault, guilt is one of those feelings that is difficult to overcome.
In saying this, feeling guilty for being pregnant can cause extra stress in the new pregnancy, so it’s important to try and come to peace with your new chapter in life. Embracing a new life into the family will also help other family members to move forward with the grief.
While the father or partner of a pregnant woman can sympathize with her emotional struggles during pregnancy, there is no way to understand exactly what a woman goes through as the person who physically lost the baby. As such, it’s important that they offer as much emotional support to the mother during a very difficult time.
It is also important to mention that the father or partner can also experience their own feelings of grief, sadness, guilt, or depression when their partner falls pregnant again. When a child passes, be it during gestation or after birth, the emotional toll can be felt by both parents, and it’s not uncommon for the father or partner who didn't carry the baby to feel profound feelings of sadness.
And if he has not overcome the grief of his loss, he could struggle to find happiness with a new pregnancy. If this is the case, it will be very difficult for the supporting partner to offer the appropriate type of support to the mother.
If both parents are struggling during a new pregnancy, they could benefit from going to couple’s grief therapy or speaking with their family doctor together.
When a mother becomes pregnant, many other people experience feelings of joy and excitement. As such, in the event she loses the baby during gestation or after birth, everyone who was looking forward to building a relationship with the baby could struggle with feelings of loss and grief. And some people may even struggle to move on from those feelings.
In fact, it is not uncommon for other members of the family to seek help from a mental health practitioner when they learn there was a loss in the family. If they still experience feelings of grief when a woman becomes pregnant with a subsequent pregnancy, it can be very difficult for them to show signs of excitement, which can negatively impact the woman.
Below is a list of who can be affected by pregnancy after loss.
This is the most obvious of all, but that doesn't mean the father is the only one of can be affected. A father's natural response in this situation is to feel slightly anxious or paranoid that a loss will occur again, which can take away from his excitement. He can also feel worried about the mental health of his pregnant partner which adds to his level of stress. Suppose he feels inadequately equipped to help her; it could negatively impact his mental health in addition to how he is already feeling.
Keep in mind that if the loss that occurred was completely out of the parent's control, a natural response to a subsequent pregnancy is to feel like no matter what they do, there is no way to protect the pregnancy from another incident.
If this is the case and the feeling persists, it’s recommended to seek a mental health practitioner to talk about these feelings. Doing this will help the couple get through the pregnancy healthier which is always good for the fetus.
We often forget that children pick up on the feelings of their parents. We also forget that they can experience profound loss from a miscarriage, just like their parents. If there are children in the family and they have been preparing to welcome their new baby brother or sister, or if the loss happened after birth, there is no doubt that they will be affected by the loss and the new pregnancy.
As such, when their mom becomes pregnant again, a common response from children who have not gained the ability to rationalize complex citations is to think one thing; and is that their new sibling will suffer the same fate. This is why it’s imperative that parents do their best to discuss the situation with the other children in the home and clear up any irrational beliefs or thoughts they may have.
If they become extremely negatively impacted, it is always recommended to contact a health care practitioner to give them the professional support they may need.
Keep in mind that children, despite how young they may be, can grow loving bonds just as profound as a parent's bond with their children.
Grandparents are one of the first immediate family members, outside of the parents, to feel extreme levels of joy when they find out a new baby is entering the family. To them, the grandbaby is an extension of their own children, and to some degree, their child as well. As such, the minute they learn about the pregnancy, they fall in love with the baby and love it even more after birth.
In the event a loss does happen, they will be just as devastated as the parents. However, they will experience a different kind of grief. They will mourn the loss of their grandchild while mourning the pain their child is going through. So, in essence, grandparents can be struck with two different types of grief, which can be very difficult for them.
While grandparents will always feel pride and joy for any subsequent pregnancy, it’s also normal for them to feel worried. They will worry not only about the fate of this new baby, but they will worry about the mental health of their own child.
Parents naturally want to shield their children from any pain and if they’ve had to console their child following the loss of their grandchild, the last thing they want is for their child to go through the same pain again. So, grandparents will be affected by many mixed feelings including grief, worry, hyper-protection, and even depression and anxiety.
For grandparents who reside in the same residence as their child and grandchildren, this can be especially difficult as their bond may be tighter than if they lived at an alternate residence with limited visits. In many cases, grandparents act as second parents to their grandchildren, so in cases like this, a subsequent pregnancy after a loss can impact them just as deeply as the parents.
It’s important to remember how extended family can be affected by the loss of a pregnancy. Similar to how grandparents can experience mental health decline particularly if they were close to the baby, so can close family. While hearing about a new pregnancy is always exciting for close family members and something everyone loves to hear, a natural response would be to worry about the outcome of the pregnancy.
Family members are generally protective and when it comes to seeing your loved one experience the loss of their child, a natural response is to want to shield them from experiencing it again. Therefore, with close family, is it likely they could struggle with feelings of protection and worry toward the newly pregnant couple.
In addition, if they live in close proximity to the family and grew a strong bond with the baby or infant, the loss can be equally as devastating. As such, a new pregnancy can certainly ignite feelings of sadness.
Virtually anyone who knew the baby can be affected by a subsequent pregnancy after a loss. The greatest fear everyone struggles with is having a lack of control. They worry that since they couldn't protect the first baby from passing, they certainly can't protect this new pregnancy from suffering the same fate. But this is simply not how it works. Most pregnancies and babies go on to live happy healthy lives and any new pregnancy should always be looked at as a new chapter, a new opportunity.
If you or someone you know is struggling with accepting pregnancy after the loss of a loved one, there are mental health resources that can help you overcome these feelings. The first step could be to talk to your family doctor to let them know what you’re struggling with. And if you prefer an online resource to get you started before you visit your doctor, here is an excellent resource to help you begin your healing process after the death of a baby.
First of all, it’s important to remember that it’s normal for moms to experience difficult feelings or anxiety during pregnancy. If these feelings become overbearing or impede their ability to live life, they should always seek professional advice on how to deal with these feelings and emotions.
Moreover, pregnancy brings about many hormonal changes so keep in mind these added hormones will almost always amplify any negative feelings pregnant women are already struggling with. This can make them feel as though certain situations are far worse than they really are. If this is something she is dealing with and can’t manage to deal with them on her own terms, there is a host of resources she can access to give her the tools to move forward healthily.
For any pregnant woman who is struggling with negative feelings or anxiety during pregnancy, below are 9 tips to help you along the way:
Acknowledge that this pregnancy after your loss is difficult. Remember that it’s ok to still grieve and be sad about your previous loss and this is a normal response to losing a loved one, whether the loss was during gestation or after birth. The only time you should worry is if your feelings of grief and sadness are impeding your life and impacting the relationships around you. Another thing to remember is that everyone grieves differently so try not to compare yourself to others.
Being afraid that this new pregnancy will suffer the same fate is a common response for women, but it’s important to remember that there is a very low probability of the same thing happening again. The reality is, that nearly 80% of gestational loss is due to uncontrollable circumstances but women go on to have happy, healthy babies on their second or third attempt. And if the loss happened after birth, there is no doubt that you did the best you could as a parent, and you likely could not have in any way prevented the loss.
In saying this, it’s normal to feel afraid with this new pregnancy but remember that you do have the power to do your best, and that's the best you can do. There are many things in life we simply cannot control such as gestational loss and accidents and coming to peace with this fact will help you get through this pregnancy with a healthier state of mind.
Give yourself permission to celebrate this pregnancy. While this is easier said than done, it’s important you practice self-love. Giving yourself the love that you need to feel happy and hopeful for this new life you created is a gift only you can give yourself. The loss of a baby is one of the most devastating things a parent will ever have to go through, but they should not have to suffer endlessly. You can be excited and embrace the new life all while keeping warm memories of the baby you lost.
As the saying goes, you are who you surround yourself with. When you’re going through a difficult time in life, often the best remedy is to surround yourself with people who will listen to and validate your feelings. You want to be around people who can give you advice and offer you words of wisdom. Keep in mind that a positive support system is often the only thing a grieving parent needs to get over the emotional hurdle their battling.
This can include close family and friends, but also people who have been through a similar situation. You can find people going through the same struggle as you in in-person support groups and online. If you don’t have a lot of leisure time to spend with people, an alternative would be to join an online forum that is crated for grieving parents. Give yourself the support you deserve.
Set milestones to help you ease into the pregnancy at a pace that is good for your mental health. This could include prescheduling all your doctor's appointments and ultrasounds. Doing this will certainly help put into perspective that you are pregnant with another baby and each milestone you check off will help in building your confidence. If you feel like big milestones are difficult for you to deal with in the first or second trimester, you might want to consider making them in smaller chunks that will be easier to focus on.
Educate yourself about the mental and physical challenges that may happen with a pregnancy after loss. It’s always best to understand how our body and mind react to a tragedy if we want to know how to overcome the grief we’re dealing with. You can do this by reading books or researching online. You can also review anecdotal evidence in online forums from mothers who have gone through what you’re going through, and what strategies they used to get over it. Learning from others is often the best way to learn.
Always try and have support with you when you go for scans, ultrasounds, OB-GYN, or Midwife appointments. Emotional support is always recommended for all pregnancies because it helps the mom to feel at ease. But when a mom is going through a pregnancy after loss, this can be particularly important. She and her partner can ask questions that will put their mind at ease and seeing the fetus together can help them move on together.
Asking questions is such an underrated, yet very useful tool when it comes to overcoming grief, fear, or life-related stress. Take advantage of the many resources that are afforded to pregnant women including, OBs, family doctors, technicians, and friends who have gone through pregnancy after loss.
Taking your mind off painful thoughts is not easy. But it’s necessary to keep your daily agenda filled with priorities that occupy your mind. When you give yourself more idle time in the day than you need, you’re more likely to get lost in your thoughts about this new pregnancy. And, staying busy is recommended in general for all pregnancies to promote a healthier outcome for mom and baby.
Photo engraved jewelry gifts are a great way to celebrate those that are a part of her life. A personalized photo pendant of the ultrasound or a current family photo that she loves printed on a photo keychain can bring her some comfort when she needs it most.
Society has come a very long way with respect to understanding how to support pregnant women. As such, there are endless resources available in many different areas of pregnancy, including pregnancy after loss and dealing with grief and guilt.
Here are a few resources you can take advantage of if you’re struggling with a new pregnancy.
It’s important to remember that if one of these resources does not work out for you, it doesn't mean none of them will. Move on to another one until you feel comfortable and can relate to the information you’re being given.
Acknowledging someone’s loss and pain is the least we can do when it comes to being a good support system. But going the extra mile by offering support can be the difference between productively helping them and not helping them at all. So, if your friend or family member is going through a new pregnancy after loss, and you notice they’re struggling emotionally, here are a few suggestions on how you can help them and show your support.
If your loved one is going to their maternity appointments alone, don’t wait for them to ask you to join them-offer to be their support. Going to maternity appointments can be stressful enough for women who have never experienced a loss, so having an emotional support system with them can make the world of difference.
Taking care of one child is a lot of work, let alone multiple children. Now add on dealing with the emotional struggles of pregnancy after loss. This is a battle that often requires help. As a good friend or family member, sometimes the most effective thing you can do to help is to offer to take a load off her daily tasks, such as taking the kids out or taking them to their appointments.
This can give the mom some much-needed alone time to recoup and collect her thoughts. Alternatively, you can offer to watch them while she and her partner go to their OB-GYN or Midwife appointments.
When moms are dealing with the everyday stresses of life such as backed-up chores and committing to endless activities, it can worsen their feelings during a pregnancy after loss. Sometimes all they need is for a helping hand to get them through the day easier. Sometimes being a good friend means giving them support in areas you wouldn't imagine, such as helping with chores.
Another helpful gesture is to bring her food to save time from having to cook. Find out what her favorite meal is and surprise her with a big dish. In addition, you can make a few sympathy meals that will last the family a few days. If you need resources and tips on unique sympathy dishes, here is an excellent resource.
Sometimes the best medicine we can offer our loved ones is the medicine of listening. Don’t wait for your friend to ask you, initiate a date first. Invite her over to your home to catch up, go visit her at her home, or take her to lunch. Offer her the floor to talk about anything she's dealing with and listen.
Give her your opinion only if she asks for it but show her your empathy to let her know you care. Something to keep in mind is that many people seek therapy for someone to talk to because they lack deep relationships in their personal life.
So, if someone is willing to pay a therapist to listen, they are definitely going to be receptive to a close friend offering them their time to talk. If your loved one talks about wanting resources but not knowing where to look, you can offer her this resource as an excellent starting point. It offers up many ways to cope with the loss of a child.
Deciding when and how to announce a new pregnancy after a loss is entirely up to the parents. If you choose to do it after the first trimester, when the rate of miscarriage is significantly reduced, you can do this. Alternatively, if you prefer not to announce it but rather keep it private as long as you can, this is also a very acceptable and common option.
Everyone deals with miscarriage differently. If you struggled with a miscarriage and are blessed with a second pregnancy, always seek advice from your OB-GYN or Midwife. They will assess your situation and offer you resources if they feel they are needed.
No. Getting pregnant is a blessing not all women can experience in their life. So despite what you have gone through, always remember that pregnancy is a new opportunity for a new chapter in life, not a replacement for a previous chapter. If you are feeling guilty, it is best to consult advice from your OB-GYN or Midwife.
In the United States, the most common recommendation from doctors, OB-GYNs, or Midwives is three months. However, many doctors will approve of trying to conceive after the woman's next menstrual cycle has ended following the miscarriage.
It is always difficult to come up with the perfect words when a loved one is newly pregnant after losing a baby. But keeping it simple is often the best approach. Congratulate them on their new pregnancy and don’t mention their previous loss. Treat it as you would any pregnancy.
Absolutely. Most stillbirths are out of the woman's control and will not impact any future pregnancies. That said if you have suffered a stillbirth, your OB-GYN or Midwife will consider you a high-risk pregnancy and request extra monitoring throughout the entire gestational period. This is only done as a safety precaution; it doesn't necessarily mean the woman is high-risk.
Children mourn the loss of a baby during gestation and after birth the same way parents do. This means that being sensitive to their feelings is important and you should approach the news with sensitivity. Allow them to ask questions and be honest with the answers.
Feelings of guilt are to be expected and many women report that they struggle with this. But if you’re feelings are extreme and you begin to notice they are hindering your life, you should seek advice from a mental health practitioner. Let your OB-GYN or Midwife know how you’re feeling and ask if they can refer you to a mental health specialist.
While the chances of having a subsequent miscarriage or stillbirth are significantly reduced with every pregnancy, there is still a possibility of it happening. The best way to monitor your pregnancy is to ensure your OB-GYN or Midwife is monitoring you closely and informing you of any precautions you should take to increase the chances of a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Keep in mind that gestational loss typically occurs for reasons unknown, so as long as you’re living the prescribed healthy lifestyle, that is the best you can do to secure a healthy pregnancy.
Going through pregnancy after loss is by no means an easy life event. It comes with many challenges, hormonal changes, feelings of uncertainty, and fear. But with the right resources and support system, pregnant women will be much more likely to deal with it in a healthy way. Moreover, this will give them the tools to accept their pregnancy as a new chapter in their life and how to simultaneously embrace the previous one.
The most important takeaway here is that no one deals with pregnancy after loss the same way, and it’s never a good idea to compare yourself to others. And lastly, practice self-love and know that it is okay to be happy and excited about a new pregnancy. Moms deserve to be happy so take the time to utilize the many resources available to help you move forward.
July 9, 2022 by Frances Kay