It’s been estimated that about 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. While the miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy is never easy to cope with, it can feel like a double whammy if you have also experienced infertility. You’ve likely invested financially, physically, and emotionally into your fertility treatments and may find yourself reeling after going through so much to get pregnant, only to find that you have suffered a miscarriage. For many, the understanding that miscarriage is usually a one-time occurrence can bring some comfort as you try to find the courage to try again. A subsequent pregnancy after a miscarriage is usually healthy.
Many couples find the decision of when to try again a difficult one. After a miscarriage some women are afraid to become pregnant again and to put themselves at risk of heartbreak again, while others feel the need to become pregnant again right away (medically, it is safe to begin trying again as soon as one month following a loss, if you are emotionally ready). It’s important, emotionally, to allow yourself to grieve the loss of the previous pregnancy before attempting another pregnancy. The concern is that if you do not allow yourself time to grieve and begin to heal before getting pregnant again that you might have trouble bonding during the pregnancy and you also might not be in a healthy enough state of mind to cope with any stresses that may occur during the pregnancy.
There is no set formula for how to grieve. What works for one person may not be right for another, so it is important to reflect on what the loss meant to you and what would be most helpful for you to move forward. Many people find it helpful to memorialize and validate the loss. This can take a variety of forms that range from private to more public. Ideas include: arranging a short memorial service with close friends/family, writing a letter to the lost baby discussing the love you have for the child and the hopes and dreams you had, planting a tree, making a donation to a charity in the baby’s honor, releasing helium balloons, or creating a photo album or scrap book with ultrasound pictures, cards, and other mementos. In addition to memorializing the baby, it is important to make a concerted effort towards self-care. When people are immersed in grief, they often forget to take care of themselves. Getting exercise, taking the time to eat a nutritious meal, getting the right amount of sleep, and allowing yourself to engage in pleasurable activities can go a long way towards healing.
When should you start thinking about trying again?
Some professionals recommend waiting to try again until you find that you are not triggered by reminders of pregnancy and babies. They might recommend that you wait until seeing a new baby doesn’t make you feel sad, or until you’re able to see a pregnant woman without being upset, or when you are able to happily send baby shower gifts to a pregnant friend without feeling resentment. But, if you’ve already been going through infertility, it’s likely that you weren’t comfortable with those triggers even before the miscarriage. That said, if you find that you’re experiencing crying spells, your sleep and appetite aren’t back to normal yet, it’s hard for you to carry out your daily routine, or you are preoccupied by thoughts of the baby you lost, then you are probably not ready yet to try for another pregnancy.
Many women who have experienced a miscarriage report in their next pregnancy feeling that some of the innocence is lost, now they know first hand what can go wrong. Early in the pregnancy, it’s normal to feel like you’re walking on eggshells. Many women report that it’s hard to let themselves enjoy the pregnancy because they’re constantly waiting for something bad to happen. Many worry that if they allow themselves to feel excited or to celebrate that it will be even harder if they lose this pregnancy as well. There’s no right or wrong way to feel when you’re pregnant again after a miscarriage. I try to encourage people to find a balance between acknowledging that nothing is guaranteed in a pregnancy, while also allowing yourself to live in the moment and celebrate each stage of the pregnancy. The good news is that for many women they are more able to relax and enjoy the pregnancy after they pass the point where they lost their previous pregnancy.
But if you find that even as time goes on you’re having trouble bonding with the baby because you can’t let yourself imagine that it’s going to work this time, then that may be a sign that you need talk with a therapist about your concerns and anxiety.
Dr. Ryan Blazei is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Cary, NC. She is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and counsels on infertility and family building options. Dr. Blazei can be reached at Ryan.W.Blazei@gmail.com, (919) 720-1452, or www.RyanWBlazeiPhD.com. She also facilitates a free drop-in support group on the second Wednesday of every month (next meeting is TOMORROW NIGHT, 10/11) from 7pm-8pm in the lobby of Carolina Conceptions. All are welcome to attend.