Let’s just say it as it is: it’s not easy being pregnant after having had a miscarriage. All those feelings of excitement and elation come with an overlay of anxiety, grief, guilt – and a huge, understandable worry about history repeating itself.
“Many women find pregnancy after loss very tough,” says Tommy’s midwife Sophie King. “You can feel a lot of anxiety and worry about the health and wellbeing of your growing baby.
“And sometimes, if your mental health was negatively affected by your loss, some of those issues can be triggered, or resurface, during a subsequent pregnancy.
The first thing to know, of course, is that this confusing and challenging emotional response to your new pregnancy is common – and normal. And that it doesn’t have to overshadow the next 9 months.
While, obviously, you can’t – and shouldn’t even try to – pretend your miscarriage didn’t happen, there are key new-pregnancy worries you can anticipate, and learn how to ease their power over you…
How likely is it to happen again?
As you may already have been told – or found out – an estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. And yes, that’s scary.
But, according to the official advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) “you are not at higher risk of another miscarriage if you have had 1 or 2 early miscarriages.”
Miscarriages, however devastating, very, very rarely come down to something you did – and your miscarriage should not be taken as a sign that there is anything wrong with you, your body or your partner.
As the RCOG experts explain: “Most miscarriages occur as a one-off event and there is a good chance of having a successful pregnancy in the future.”
However, knowing all this intellectually and knowing this in your heart are two very different things, of course.
Midwives are trained to offer you special support if you’ve already had a miscarriage, and, once you’re booked in, there should always be a midwife at the end of the phone. “As midwives, we’ll always aim to make sure the care women receive in pregnancy after loss also supports their wellbeing and mental health,” says Sophie.
But, if it’s very early in your pregnancy and you’re not yet receiving midwife care, you may find it helpful to share your worries with others who understand what you’re going though.
You can do this by contacting the Miscarriage Association (they have a forum, a Facebook page, an online Live Chat and a helpline on 01924 200799 that’s open Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm).
Or you could join the regular pregnancy after miscarriage threads on the MadeForMums Chat forum, as Loraboo did, saying: “You are all amazing and it’s calmed my nerves a lot knowing I’m not the only one going through it or that I am being overly paranoid.”
That’s an opinion echoed by Laura, who took part in our MadeForMums Bump Project research, and told us: “The women on the MadeForMums groups really do get it and are great at reassurance and support.”
What if the wait for a 12-week scan is unbearable?
For those who have experienced the pain of miscarriage, the long wait for scans and appointments with your midwife can be torturous.
One of the best ways to combat this mounting stress is to know what help is available. You can go to your GP and request an early scan on the NHS at your local Early Pregnancy Unit, or you can choose to pay for one (or more) privately.
But it’s worth taking a moment to think things through before you do…
“A scan can only give you a snapshot of your baby on that day but it can’t tell you how they’ll be tomorrow or next week, so you may end up wanting more and more,” says MadeForMums’ expert midwife Anne Richley.
When is the right time to tell people I’m pregnant again?
Given what happened in your previous pregnancy, you may feel, quite powerfully, that you want to keep the news of your new pregnancy a secret from friends and family until after the pregnancy week when you miscarried last time, or until after your 12-week NHS scan – or maybe even longer.
But it is worth considering if, actually, it’s worth telling people – or a small group of them – early on, so that you have support around you from the people you love, and who know what you’ve been through, in the days and weeks when you’re likely to be at your most anxious.
“It’s a bit of a Catch-22 situation,” says Anne. “Waiting until 12 weeks is ‘traditional’ because that’s when the risk of miscarriage noticeably decreases and you may feel you don’t want to tempt fate by saying anything before then but, if you share your news earlier you can get support early on if you need it.”
How do I cope with painful dates?
For many of us who have experienced loss, the joy of a new pregnancy doesn’t just come with anxiety and worry but with renewed feelings of grief.
If this comes up for you, remember that this doesn’t take anything away from the love you feel for your new baby. It is perfectly alright and normal to grieve and do whatever it is you need to do you remember your first child.
You may find that certain dates are particularly painful because they are stark reminders of your loss – the date you miscarried, for example, or the date your miscarried baby was due to be born – or because the joyful moments that confirm your new baby is OK, like a first scan, contrast with moments in your previous pregnancy when it was confirmed that things weren’t OK.
Acknowledge these events in advance, says Sophie, and allow yourself the time to grieve and process this sorrow, and remember your lost baby.
If you find yourself becoming overwrought at appointments or on these dates, give yourself the space and self-love to do what you need to do. If you need some time alone to cry, or shout or quietly contemplate, make that a priority. If you need people around you, don’t be afraid to ask for support. If you need to take some time out during an appointment, do. Put yourself and your emotional needs first.
If your partner is feeling strong enough, you might like to ask them to be your advocate and be the one to step in and ask if you need some space, or anything else, and then sort that out for you. If your partner is also struggling, you might want to consider asking a close friend or family member to come along to appointments and be that for both of you.
Support is key, and asking for help when you need it is the best way to get that.
What to do when anxiety strikes
If you’re experiencing ongoing anxiety through your pregnancy, self-care is a must. You may want to consider using a little mindfulness practice or meditation to calm yourself down when you’re getting really worked up. This can help to bring you into the present, rather than dwelling in past fear, and serve to remind you that you and your baby are safe. Doing this can help release anxiety and encourage more enjoyment of your current pregnancy.
Focus on your breath
Bringing your awareness to your breath is a great practice, as mouth-breathing triggers a subtle anxiety response. Deliberate and focused breath, on the other hand, works wonders for clearing the mind. Take a series of deep, steady inhales and exhales through your nose, releasing slowly and focusing your mind on your breath. You may find your breathing is a bit wobbly at first, so continue this until you are breathing smoothly.
Don’t try to suppress or ignore thoughts that will inevitably come up. Instead, hear them, acknowledge them and then deliberately let them pass, always coming back to your breath and what you are doing right there, in the moment. The goal is to reach a place in your mind and body where you are accepting of everything around you, internally and externally, yet you cling to nothing.
Once your mind feels a little clearer, bring in a positive affirmation designed to offer reassurance and help you feel safe. Try saying (out loud or in your head) “I am safe and my baby is safe. I trust in my amazing body. I now consciously inhale trust and exhale fear” or create your own.
Will I ever be able to accept that this pregnancy will be OK?
Fully accepting that your baby is healthy and your pregnancy is progressing as it should be is something that can be a real struggle after miscarriage.
“I’ve had my 12 week scan I still feel really paranoid,” says Rebecca, who took part in MadeForMums Bump Project research. “I hope that, as time goes on, I’ll be able to accept that I’m actually having a baby after my miscarriage. Maybe once I’ve reached 20 weeks, I’ll know that it’s going to be OK.”
The truth is, there is no way to force acceptance but, hopefully, you will find this happens naturally for you.
Whether that’s when you first feel your new baby kicking, when you find out the sex (if that’s what you plan to do), when you see your beautiful bump emerging or when you realise you’re ready to start shopping for prams – it’s different for everyone.
It’s not all that uncommon for new parents who have previously experienced loss to wait to buy everything they need until after their new baby is born. Others find that getting all the gear in can help solidify the reality that this is happening. It’s really a personal choice.
For some of us, full acceptance may never come, and that’s OK, too. But if this is the case for you, try to make sure you’re doing all you can to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
“Try to focus on getting through the day, without thinking too much about the long-term until you’re ready,” says Ruth Bender Atik of the Miscarriage Association. “It’s best to start with individual days before looking ahead in weeks and months, and then eventually to the birth of this baby and beyond. Be kind to yourself and accept that it’s fine not to feel happy all the time.”
Keeping your partner in the loop about how you’re feeling is also a good thing to do, for both of you. And try to remember to check in with how they’re feeling, too. The more you communicate together about how you’re experiencing this pregnancy and your feelings of loss, the more you can support each other.
How do I prepare for the birth?
The more time you give yourself to prepare for the birth of your child, the better. Holding on to the fear from your last pregnancy and the pain of miscarriage can easily translate to a fear of labour, too, even if your miscarriage was very early.
Hypnobirthing is something many nearly-due mums-to-be who’ve experienced a previous miscarriage find very helpful, as this works on releasing anxiety and finding a sense of deep calm.
“Hypnobirthing gives women the tools to approach their subsequent pregnancy with confidence and release the trauma of their previous experience,” says Katharine Graves, founder of KG Hypnobirthing and The Hypnobirthing Association. “People sometimes think of hypnobirthing as only being appropriate for women who are having a straightforward pregnancy but a woman who has had a previous traumatic birth or a miscarriage needs hypnobirthing even more, and her teacher will be sensitive to her specific needs,.
“We have 2 alternative relaxation scripts and audios designed especially for parents who have experienced miscarriage. Supporting her to acknowledge the baby she has lost is so important.
“The most healing experience is when a woman holds her new baby in her arms, and this baby has a special place in her heart along with the baby that died.”
When the time does come for your baby to be born, you can use the tools you have learned during pregnancy to calmly bring your baby into the world with joy and love. And know that doing so will never take away from the baby you lost before.
About the author
Ruby Deevoy has been a journalist for 10 years, writing about natural health, wellness and spiritual psychology. She had 5 recurrent miscarriages before having her son.