Making the decision to try again for a baby after a stillbirth is a very personal one. What is right for one person might not be for another. You may not feel ready to even read about this, while another person may want try for another baby as soon as possible.
If you’re in a couple, it’s quite common for one of you to be ready to talk about trying again before the other one. It can also be normal for your sex life to be affected following stillbirth. Talk to each other as much as you can. You can seek advice from your GP or practice nurse if this is worrying you.
You can read more about supporting each other as a couple after a stillbirth.
Talk to a professional
Previously, the advice was to wait for a year before trying again. However, a study of over 14,000 births in 2019 found that although you’re often told to wait for a year before getting pregnant again, there is little increased risk if conception happens earlier.
But it’s a good idea to allow your body time to recover physically from the pregnancy and birth, as well as giving yourself time to heal emotionally. Understanding the best timing to start trying again can be confusing and you may receive conflicting advice from professionals.
It might be helpful to talk to a consultant obstetrician, who is a specialist in pregnancy and is likely to have more experience with stillbirth and help you discuss your own situation. Your hospital may even have a consultant who specialises in care for people who have had a stillbirth.
Consider waiting for test results
You may wish to wait for results from any tests done after your baby died, or a post-mortem. These results might reveal a specific problem and you’ll want to know if this could affect a future pregnancy, or if it can be treated.
Other factors such as your age or general health might affect the timing of when you try again too.
"The single biggest thing that helped with my grief was my second son. He was born less than a year after Tristan as we tried for him, successfully, as soon as we had the post-mortem results come back to say that Tristan was perfect. The results told us that the placenta was the problem."
Sarah, who lost her son Tristan
You will have a follow-up postnatal appointment with your GP to check your physical health 6 weeks after the birth. You can also ask questions about future pregnancies if you feel ready to discuss this.
If you had tests after your baby was stillborn then you should have an appointment with a consultant Obstetrician to discuss the results and what this means for a future pregnancy. They may need to perform further tests at this visit.
If you do decide to try again, start taking folic acid and make any necessary lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and alcohol to ensure you’re in the best possible health before starting to try again.
Read more about preventing stillbirth.
When will I be fertile again after a stillbirth?
Your next period could come around 5 to 6 weeks after the birth of your baby. However it is normal to bleed for a few weeks following the birth of a baby. This is called lochia. Lochia starts after the birth, is heavy and red for 3 to 5 days and then is brown or pink and lighter for around 10 days, sometimes more. It can be hard to know whether the blood is your period or lochia.
Read more about the physical effects of a stillbirth.
You will probably ovulate and be fertile 2 weeks before your first period so you could become pregnant very shortly after the stillbirth. However, it is advisable to wait until any scars have healed (for example from an episiotomy or tear) and your cervix has re-closed, to avoid the risk of infection (for the mother).
You may find it helpful to discuss contraception with your GP, midwife or health visitor until you feel ready to try again.
If you're taking anti-depressants
You may have been offered anti-depressants if the shock and trauma of losing your child has caused you to become clinically depressed. If you are taking medication, it is very important to talk to your GP before conceiving again as certain medications can affect your pregnancy and may need careful management.
Babies conceived through fertility treatment
If you conceived your baby through fertility treatment, you may be feeling very daunted about trying again. Perhaps you’re not sure if you’ll qualify for further NHS treatment. You may decide you don’t want to experience fertility treatment again. All of these factors make the pregnancy journey more complex.
Pregnancy after a c-section
It takes longer to recover from a c-section than from a vaginal delivery. It’s important to give your body time to recover before you start trying to get pregnant again. You will need to wait at least 6 months before trying to conceive but your doctor or midwife may advise you to wait for 12 to 18 months, depending on the circumstances.
Read more about pregnancy after a c-section.
Coping with grief
If you are struggling to cope with overwhelming feelings of grief and anxiety, you may find it helpful to read our page about coping after the loss of a baby. A natural response for many grieving parents is to put their time and focus into trying again for a baby.
However, have a think about whether you feel ready to manage the emotions of a new pregnancy, and the anxiety this can sometimes bring. Talking to a professional, whether it's a trained counsellor, GP or obstetrician might help you work things out.
Getting more support
You can talk to our Tommy’s midwives for free on 0800 0147 800. We are open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Or you can email them on [email protected]. The midwives on the line have received training in bereavement care and will be able to talk to you about what you’re going through.
We also have a parenting after loss support group on Facebook, where parents support each other through pregnancy after loss.