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How to Survive Pregnancy After a Loss

A subsequent pregnancy following a miscarriage, stillbirth, perinatal, or neonatal loss can be terrifying. Here are some tips on staying same from a mom who lived it.

A subsequent pregnancy following a miscarriage, stillbirth, perinatal, or neonatal loss can be terrifying. Here are some tips on staying same from a mom who lived it.

Babyloss -- the death of a baby before, during, or shortly after birth -- is shockingly common. One in four parents will have their babies stolen by miscarriage, stillbirth, chromosomal problems, heart defects, SIDS, and more. I am one of those parents -- our first child died, suddenly and without known cause, at 31 weeks of pregnancy. And just a few months she died and was born, my husband and I tried again for another baby -- and succeeded.

The brutal truth is that when your baby is ripped from you -- an unnatural loss that no parent expects to have to endure -- fear enters your life. Suddenly you are forced to see just how fragile all life is. And while a subsequent pregnancy after a loss (dubbed a rainbow pregnancy) is often incredibly healing, fear is a very real challenge. You know that lightning does strike twice, and that you are not exempt from more heartbreak.

So how is a bereaved mama supposed to survive a subsequent pregnancy? Here are my tips from the trenches.

Online Support Groups

Get Support

I believe that every woman who is pregnant again after a loss should find herself a strong base of support. Tell trusted friends and family about how you're feeling, and ask for prayer. During my own rainbow pregnancy, I found it very difficult to pray because the fact was that I had prayed for our daughter and she had died. Fear held me back from my own prayers, but knowing that many of my loved ones were praying for me and were there to listen was an incredible comfort.

However, many bereaved mothers do not have loved ones who will be gentle or understanding with their fragile hearts. Thankfully, there are many online support groups (see links in the sidebar for recommendations) for pregnancy after a loss. I joined one immediately upon discovering I was pregnant again, and to this day (five months postpartum at this writing) the group remains a source of nourishment and care for me. In these private groups members can share the fears and emotions which are so normal for rainbow pregnancies that may be misunderstood by women who haven't been through a loss.

Recommended Books on Pregnancy After a Loss

Tell Your Doctor What You Need

Going into my rainbow pregnancy, I knew that going a full month between OB appointments in my first two trimesters would drive me out of my mind with worry. So I told my doctor that I needed more appointments, just to come in and listen to the baby's heartbeat. She was understanding, and said that I could come in weekly. I ended up coming in every other week, and then weekly during my final trimester. I also had a few extra ultrasounds, and weekly non-stress tests (NSTs) in the third trimester. The nurses at labor and delivery didn't understand why I was coming in so often for NSTs, but it didn't matter -- my doctor was behind me, and it helped me stay sane.

Tell your doctor how you're feeling about this pregnancy, and what will help you get through it with the least stress. If your doctor is not accommodating or supportive, find one who is. You are paying her a lot of money to not only deliver a healthy baby, but also to give you the care you need. You are not putting your doctor out by asking for a little extra attention.

Also, don't be afraid to call your doctor or go to your hospital's labor and delivery if you have any concerns about your baby. It's better to be extra cautious, both for your sanity and the health of the baby, than to do nothing because you want to save face and then have the worst happen [again]. My third trimester felt extremely stressful, and in the last few weeks of my pregnancy I was at labor and delivery every other night because of concerns.

Don't worry that you're putting anyone out. You're not. It's their job to address your needs. So take full advantage of your healthcare providers and ask for whatever you need to feel okay.

Count Kicks in the Third Trimester

Every pregnant mama should be doing daily kick counts during her final trimester -- but it's especially important for loss mamas to be doing them. Counting kicks can alert you to any problems with the baby, and it can also reassure you that your baby is alive and well. I ended up counting kicks twice daily, during times in the morning and evening when my baby was normally active. Please visit Count the Kicks for more information on how to properly count your baby's kicks.

Celebrate What You Can

When I became pregnant again with our son, I was concerned that my rainbow pregnancy would be a dark time, that I would not come away with any pleasant memories, and I didn't want that for either myself or my son. So while I definitely was more reserved with my heart, I tried to celebrate what I felt able to during his pregnancy. I purchased a few pieces of clothing that I really liked, and I had maternity photographs taken. I invited our friends and family to our house to celebrate a healthy mid-pregnancy ultrasound and gender reveal. I took a picture of my growing belly every week. I had a small, gentle mama blessing ceremony in place of a baby shower. I did what I could, what felt nourishing. If it felt like too much or too scary -- I didn't do it. Go gently, and celebrate what you can -- but if you can't, it's okay and very normal.

Be Gentle With Yourself

I knew that being pregnant again was going to be stressful -- but I didn't realize just how stressful. It was a huge effort to not give into the fear, to stay sane each day for nine months.

I hope that your pregnancy is the exception, that you are able to leave fear behind and live in trust and peace. But if you're not -- know that it is okay. It is normal, even. You've been through hell with your loss, and you've learned the hard way that getting a positive pregnancy test or getting through the first trimester does not always end in taking a baby home to raise and nurture. You know that there thousands of things that could go wrong, things that you have no control over.

So go easy on yourself. Don't think you "should" be doing anything in particular. The only "shoulds" in a rainbow pregnancy involve taking care of yourself, your body, and your mental health in whatever ways you can manage to. You don't need to decorate a nursery, or buy baby clothes, or have a baby shower.

Be gentle with yourself, with your fragile heart. You deserve it.


Sindy Poonen on January 31, 2020:

Hi I’ve just experienced my 3rd pregnancy loss the first one was devastating as I have 2 healthy boys and didn’t know why did it happen I was 16 weeks but my baby has stopped growing at 12 I fell pregnant after 5 months had another miscarriage at 7 weeks we decided to change drs be put on other meds and wait we waited for a year and than we fell pregnant again we thought this was it everything was so going or so we thought I was 20 weeks and on the 2nd of January our lives changed no heart beat and I had bleeding I was so heartbroken still am and to make matters worst I had to have a c section no baby to bring home only pain and a terrible scar. Some days are better than others and some aren’t.

MElias on October 12, 2016:

Ppl tell u "it's ok, don't worry, next time".... those words really hurt more than they think. I'm trying to stay positive, but it's hard. I have two angels in heaven that were both a surprise for me...and that were taken at the same time...one that went just 2 weeks ago... thank u for sharing ur story...they make me cry but give me hope......

ana rand on March 04, 2016:

i am so sorry for the lost ) :

Sara on January 24, 2016:

I came across this article from Pinterest and I cannot thank you enough for writing this. I just got the call from my doc that I am pregnant again, a mere 5 weeks after a m/c. I am shocked, elated, and absolutely terrified. Knowing that it's ok to take it easy, be scared, and take it one day at a time helps tremendously.

shena on June 16, 2015:

Our son passed away 3/7/2015 from arpkd he was born 3/6/15 lived for 19 hrs we know all to well this could happen again as we are expecting due Feb 2016 thank u for your uplifting story!

larehn07 on May 30, 2015:

my 2 1/2 year old son passed away from cancer 10/14 and we found out we are expecting

We have 8year

A misscarried angel

A son who passed from cancer

And now we are pregnant. Im hoping and asking for prayers of a healthy baby

Jody71 on April 11, 2015:

Miscarriage. Ugh. We went through three of them, and they were the most miserable and challenging times of our lives. Your words are so helpful to hear. Thank you for writing about this. Are you familiar with the work over at The Miscarriage Institute? There's a bunch of very helpful information there, several ebooks and about 14 hours of videos that focus on healing emotionally after miscarriage. Seems to come from a similar perspective as you. Here's the link: www.miscarriageinstitute.com

Erin on February 22, 2015:

This was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for putting this out there. Our daughter was born sleeping at 40 weeks in October. She had Trisomy 13, and we knew we would not have long with her. I am currently only 5 1/2 weeks pregnant. My due day with this baby is only 11 days later than Nila's birthday. I am scared maybe we did not wait long enough. I am an emotional train wreck. I am so so scared. I have told a handful of people, only so that they know why I am extra crazy right now. Everyone is telling me it won't happen again. I know too well that it can.

Devan on January 06, 2015:

This came at a wonderful time. I'm currently 16 weeks with our rainbow baby after a blighted ovum in October 2013. It's a daily struggle not to be afraid of what might happen. I find myself not wanting to plan too much for this baby because of the "what ifs." I talk myself out of buying baby things or looking at potential nurseries because I almost feel like I'd be cursing myself if I did. It's nice to have a place and people that understand.

Tara on November 22, 2014:

Good article. Sadly, I am a mother struggling to have another successful pregnancy. I have 1 adorable 4 year old son. These past 3 years have been one loss after another. My first miscarriage was in November of 2011 at 11 weeks, my second August of 2013 at 19 weeks, and my latest this past October 2014 at 6 weeks. There are days I am very hopeful to try again, and then others I just feel like all hope is gone and to accept that we will never have anymore children. I'm praying with some time and healing we will know when the time is right.

Again, thank you for sharing your thought.

Jessica on November 06, 2014:

You've written exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

Beth Morey (author) from Montana on April 25, 2013:

Thank you, @torrilynn

torrilynn on March 01, 2013:

@betherann really nice read here. you are a brilliant writer.

hope to read more from you in the future.

voted up

Beth Morey (author) from Montana on February 27, 2013:

Thank you, Penny! :)

penny on February 27, 2013:

as usual Beth, beautiful and so right on point!!!