Approaching pregnancy after a difficult experience
September 22, 2015
If you have experienced a pregnancy that was difficult or ended in miscarriage or stillbirth, going into another pregnancy may cause you to feel sad, stressed, or anxious.
What happened to you was life-altering, and you’ll never approach pregnancy the same way. It is possible to acknowledge what you are feeling but still experience the joy a pregnancy should bring.
Many issues can cause a woman to blame herself after a failed pregnancy or generate worry about her next pregnancy. A history of miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, severe preeclampsia, or other major complications can have an emotional impact. While every woman is different and every woman will cope with such events in her own way, you can take these steps to help you through the process:
- Reach out to people who have been in a similar situation. Talk to your doctor about local support groups or seek them online or through a church or community center.
- Talk to your Ob/Gyn or general physician if you experience emotions beyond normal grief or symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- Seek consultation from a maternal-fetal medicine specialist to review your records, get a better understanding about what happened in your previous pregnancy, and run tests if necessary. This is especially helpful prior to pursuing your next pregnancy.
- Remember: What happened was NOT your fault.
- Stay hopeful. Odds are good the complication will not happen again. Sometimes we can find a reason for what happened, and we can do something different this time.
You’re not alone
Talking with someone who has gone through a similar experience can be therapeutic. It’s important to realize you’re not alone. You often can find support groups through hospitals and churches. One local group, Hope Mommies, offers support through online and in-person meetings and retreats, and by creating care packages to send to mothers who have experienced loss. A New York based organization, Pregnancy Loss Support Program, offers telephone support for both mothers and fathers.
Planning for your next pregnancy
After you have had some time and space to process what happened, I recommend that you make an appointment with your Ob/Gyn, ideally before you become pregnant again. Your Ob/Gyn can talk through your previous pregnancy and, after gathering all the medical evidence, see if there is anything we can do differently next time. Pregnancy can uncover previously unknown maternal conditions, so if something was identified during your prior pregnancy, we may be able to modify your risk factors before or during your next one.
Sometimes, we won’t find a cause for what happened in your previous pregnancy, which can be frustrating. In that case, you may be tempted to try something you read about on the Internet or heard about from a friend. But doing something just to do something different isn’t always the best course of action. Ultimately, we want to do what’s best for you and your baby.
It’s important to have these discussions before you become pregnant again so you have the benefit of time. We can talk about potential issues, such as managing your diabetes or blood pressure, getting lupus under control, or losing weight. If we need to run tests, it’s much better to do that when you’re not in the middle of the physical changes that pregnancy brings.
Partners need support, too
Partners sometimes can be overlooked in this process, but they, too, may struggle. They may experience sadness and stress, or feel powerless because they couldn’t protect the mother and baby. Letting partners talk about what they’re feeling and getting them support is just as important as it is for moms.
Difficult pregnancy experiences also can be stressful on a relationship, and you will likely process the events differently. If you work on good communication and caring for each other, you may find you will grow closer. Something good can come out of a difficult time.
When you become pregnant again
It’s important to find an Ob/Gyn you feel comfortable with and who understands you may have extra anxiety. We want you to find someone who will take your call when you’re worried and be willing to see you when you need reassurance.
When we ask how you’re feeling, be honest. Instead of quietly being overwhelmed with anxiety, talk to your doctor. We don’t want a past event to hurt you twice by robbing you of the ability to enjoy your pregnancy.
Your doctor can help you make good, evidence-based decisions. We sometimes meet with women who want to deliver early because they are so nervous. We understand that, but know that we’re going to watch you closely. We don’t want to put your baby in the NICU by delivering early if we can avoid it.
Dealing with family, friends
It may be tough after a difficult pregnancy to watch your family and friends have “perfect” pregnancies. Even worse is when someone close to you doesn’t say the right thing. For example, I hate this phrase: “You’ll be able to have other babies.” I know this is well intentioned, but you can’t replace one baby with another. Although everyone will experience the situation differently, finding a group of other people who have been through similar situations can help as you go back to work and resume your social activities.
When you took your pregnancy test and got the “plus sign”, you likely became emotionally invested in that child-to-be as a toddler, a first-grader, a child going off to college. Your feelings and your grief warrant the same amount of attention – and patience – as if you lost a baby after birth. Give voice to your feelings!
Let us help you
It’s important to understand that what happened is not your fault and is probably unlikely to happen again.
Despite all the medical advancements and interventions developed over the years, we still don’t always get the outcome we want. We can help you understand what happened and why, and help you find joy – not anxiety – in your next pregnancy. For more information about your next steps after a difficult pregnancy, request an appointment or call 214-635-8300.