A pregnancy after a previous pregnancy or infant loss is filled with many emotions. Some moments may be filled with hope and joy, while the next moments may be consumed by fear or anger. These, and many other reactions, are very normal.
When to Become Pregnant After a Loss
Some people feel a new pregnancy will take away the deep sadness you have experienced. Friends and loved ones may even suggest that this will help you in your grief. Other people may fear that a new pregnancy and baby will replace the baby who died. It is important to understand that each of your babies will have a special place in your heart and your family. A new baby will not take away the sadness, nor will he/she ever be a replacement or solution for your grief.
There is not a perfect time to have another baby. Talk to your health provider about your physical health and any health concerns. Beyond that, there are many opinions about what timing is appropriate for your emotional health. Ultimately, this is something only you and your partner can determine and should be based on what feels right to you.
Entering a New Pregnancy
The emotions of learning you are pregnant again often challenging. Some common feelings include:
– a new wave of sadness from missing the previous baby
– fear of becoming attached to this baby
– fear that the anxiety of this pregnancy will harm the new baby
– happiness at the thought of loving another baby
– guilt about the previous baby sharing your love with this baby
– concern about your ability to trust yourself of your health providers to protect this baby
– sadness that the innocent joy you felt in the last pregnancy is gone
– hopelessness that there are no guarantees this pregnancy will have a happy ending
As the pregnancy progresses and especially as you come to the gestational age when the last pregnancy changed, it is normal for your emotions and anxiety to be more intense.
How to manage the emotions is something each person and family must determine individually. The suggestions below have been helpful to others in similar situations.
– Establish open communication with your partner to share your feelings
– Be honest with yourself and others that this pregnancy does not take away your sadness or love and grief for the previous baby. Give yourself permission to continue to care for your grief in the ways that have been healthy for you.
– Identify a health provider for this pregnancy that meets your needs. Many women are comforted by returning to the provider who cared for them during the last pregnancy because they were caring and know the history. Many other women feel the need to see a different provider because it is too difficult to return to the same office and situations. It is completely acceptable to be seen where you are most comfortable.
– Create a plan for this pregnancy with your health provider. It can be helpful to know in advance what tests will be done, what will be different during this pregnancy, how your emotions and fears will be addressed, and what to expect if concerns arise. Health professionals have differening opinions on this. So, it is important to find a provider that makes you most comfortable.
– Try to enjoy the little moments of this pregnancy. It can be easy to focus on the fear and the unknown, but this is also a very special time i your life and the life of this new baby that you will want to treasure.
– Give yourself permission to be happy and excited. It can feel wrong to be happy again after a devastating loss. But this is a normal progression and does not mean you are ‘over’ your grief.
– Journal about your pregnancy. This can be a therapeutic way to process the many emotions, and it can also serve as a letter to both babies about your love for them.
– If you did not attend childbirth classes with the previous pregnancy or would like a refresher, ask for a special session for parents who have had a pregnancy loss or a private session with an educator who is experienced in pregnancy after a loss. Star Legacy Foundation also provides these classes online.
– Ask your provider about using complimentary therapies such as yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, acupressure, or massage.
– Attend a support group specific for families experiencing a pregnancy after a loss. Star Legacy Foundation offers this group online as well.
– Seek counseling from a professional therapist or a spiritual leader
– Call the Star Legacy Foundation support line (952-715-7731) to speak to a counselor or another person who has had a similar experience.
As with any pregnancy, it is important to eat a balanced diet, get adequate rest, exercise, and take care of your physical and emotional needs.
Once you are feeling the baby move on a regular basis, get to know this baby. This can be important so you will be able to identify if there are any changes from this baby’s usual behavior. Any changes should be reported to your health provider immediately.
Depending on the circumstances of your loss, your provider may recommend additional testing or monitoring. Ultrasounds, genetic testing, non-stress tests, and others can provide you and your provider with important information about this baby.
Some people are overwhelmed with relief, joy, fear, and sadness as they remember the baby that is missing. Others are disappointed that their grief is not significantly better with this new, happy event for that their fear has not ended. It is also possible this pregnancy and delivery did not go as planned and you must process the many emotions related to that experience.
As with the pregnancy, the roller coaster of emotions during this time is also very normal.
It is common for parents to be extremely protective of this new baby or continue to fear that something will happen to this baby. In time, most parents learn to manage these emotions and trust their parenting abilities. As before, it can be helpful to talk to another parent who has had a similar situation, attend a support group, visit a therapist or spiritual counselor, or utilize complementary therapies.
Remember this new baby will not eliminate your grief. It is normal to still be sad at times. Allow yourself to be happy about the new baby and sad about the baby who died at the same time.
Postpartum depression is common after any pregnancy, but can be particularly troublesome for a women who has had a previous pregnancy loss. Call your health provider or your baby’s pediatrician immediately if you feel the sadness and emotions are overwhelming, you are not able to enjoy happy moments, or you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
A new pregnancy and baby is an exciting time that can be complicated by your previous loss. Be patient with yourself and remember that the emotions come from the love you have for your babies.