What to Expect from Pregnancy After a Stillbirth and How to Cope

Navigating the journey of what to expect from pregnancy after a stillbirth can be emotionally challenging. In this article, both medical professionals and parents who have experienced their own rainbow babies discuss how your perspective on pregnancy and childbirth might shift completely.

Stillbirth is the term used to describe the unnatural passing of a fetus after the 20th week of pregnancy, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that it occurs in one out of every 175 pregnancies. These miscarriages are typically the result of random occurrences, such as problems with the placenta, chromosomal abnormalities, or other complications, and there is a small chance that they will occur again. Still, after going through a stillbirth, a couple may become overly concerned about the wellbeing of their child during subsequent pregnancies.

These emotions, according to Rob Atlas, M.D., a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine at Mercy Medical Center, are not uncommon. He shared this information with Parents. According to what he had to say, “there can be quite a bit of fear, anxiety, and many (women who are pregnant following a loss) have some degree of depression.”

Continue reading to gain insight from the experiences of real parents and medical professionals who have dealt with pregnancy after stillbirth, as well as advice for navigating the subsequent nine months.

What Emotions Will I Have Regarding the New Baby?

Stacy Schultz, a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), is no stranger to intense feelings because she suffered the loss of her twins after they were born at just 20 weeks gestation. When she became pregnant with her son six months after the tragic loss of her daughters Emilyn and Hailey, she realized that this child would not be exempt from the possibility of passing away.

When it came to the first time, according to Schultz, “Nothing could go wrong.” This time, she says, “I wasn’t just worried about what ended up killing my girls, prematurity, but every other complication that can befall a pregnant woman.” She explains this by saying that she was concerned about the possibility of the baby being born prematurely.

She continues by saying that the most challenging aspect of the post-loss pregnancy was dealing with fear. “Fear of losing my baby, fear of bonding with him, and fear of trusting that I would bring him home,” she said. If I had any hope of bringing him back with me, it would be a bad omen, and I would end up losing him as well.

Schultz goes on to explain the complex web of feelings that one can anticipate experiencing over the course of those nine long months. She says, “Let’s face it, pregnancy is hard!” and continues, “The first day, I was grateful for nausea, but before long, I couldn’t wait until it was over.” “I felt like I needed to cherish every moment, but let’s face it, pregnancy is hard!” she says. Then I began to feel guilty, as if by not being thankful and happy for it, I was disrespecting the memory of my girls, who had shown me how quickly everything could be taken away.

According to OB-GYN Lara Friel, M.D., author for Merck Manuals and director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, guilt is a normal feeling to have after a miscarriage or stillbirth.

Seeking Assistance for Pregnancy Following the Death of a Child

In the end, Dr. Atlas has determined that the psychological difficulties associated with stillbirth are significant, and he encourages other people to seek assistance. It is highly recommended that you “Speak openly with your practitioner and seek professional care and support for as long as you feel you need it.”

This idea is supported by Dr. Friel, who tells us, “I highly recommend counseling or therapy for patients who experience a stillbirth.” Both parents and siblings who have lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth can find solace in support groups designed specifically for them.

Share Your Story, an online community hosted by the March of Dimes, served as Schultz’s savior, as she explained in her post. As for me, I have gradually found the strength to confront every aspect of life after a loss, including this pregnancy, with the assistance of my husband, my family, a therapist, and our pastor. All of these people have been a tremendous support to me.

You must make it a priority to locate support no matter where you go for assistance. Know that you aren’t alone; everything you feel after a loss and during a subsequent pregnancy is normal and to be expected. Know that you aren’t alone.

When to Try to Conceive After Having a Stillbirth

Dr. Atlas warns that there are potential birth complications that parents need to be aware of after they have experienced a loss, particularly if they get pregnant again quickly after the loss. We refer to this as a pregnancy with a short interval. Patients who conceive too soon after a loss, typically within the first six months, have a greater chance of having a premature baby, he explains. “This is typically associated with a patient who has experienced a miscarriage after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

Dr. Friel recognizes that “many women want to get pregnant again after a loss, and they want to do so quickly.” However, it has been discovered that having short intervals between pregnancies is associated with some negative results for both the mother and the child. These negative outcomes include an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia. An increased risk of anemia may be present for women who try to get pregnant again too quickly after having a child.

She advises parents to allow time for physical and mental recovery before trying to get pregnant again, and she explains why this is important by saying, “Every pregnancy requires a lot of resources—iron, folic acid, calcium—which need to be restored prior to the next pregnancy.” It is strongly suggested that pregnant women keep up their daily intake of prenatal vitamins.

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