Pregnancy after neonatal loss

Losing a baby can make future pregnancies especially anxious and uncertain. We have advice to help you cope during pregnancy after loss.

Pregnancy is already an emotional and anxious time but having experience of what can go wrong and the grief of losing a baby makes everything much harder. It can feel impossible for parents to enjoy a pregnancy after loss. You might be feeling really worried but your healthcare team should be aware of this and offer you extra appointments, scans and reassurance.

If you are still trying for another baby there is more information here.

You will get more support

‘High risk’ pregnancy

Any pregnancy following the loss of a baby will be described as ‘high risk’, even if you had a straightforward pregnancy before. This term can sound frightening but try to focus on the fact that you will get more support and extra scans and appointments. They will monitor your baby’s growth and development very closely.

It is likely that you will be cared for by an obstetric consultant rather than a midwife during this pregnancy.

Your doctor and the cause of your baby’s death (if known) will determine how many extra appointments and scans you will get. However, if you feel like you need more scans or appointments to talk about how you’re feeling, you can ask for them.

Some parents book with a different hospital because they feel like going back to the same hospital would be too painful. You can speak to your GP and let them know which hospital you would like to be referred to or you can self-refer on your chosen hospital’s website. 

Coping with anxiety during pregnancy after loss

Most parents find themselves very anxious when they’re pregnant again after loss.

The fear of losing another baby can be overwhelming and it’s normal to worry about this. You might find it really hard to imagine taking home a live baby.

If the anxiety becomes too much and you’re finding it hard to cope day-to-day, talk to your GP or obstetric doctor. They may be able to refer you to a specialist midwife for mental health support or to another expert for talking therapy.

Tips from other parents and experts

  • Don’t keep your feelings to yourself – if you need reassurance or you’re worried that you’re not coping. Speak to doctor, midwife or hospital about it. You are not a nuisance and it’s natural for you to be finding this pregnancy difficult.
  • As with every pregnancy, keep monitoring your baby’s movements. Report any changes as soon as possible, day or night.
  • Some hospitals have special clinics for bereaved parents, such as the Tommy's Rainbow Clinic in Manchester, who are pregnant again. Check with your local maternity unit to see if it’s something they do to offer extra support. It might also give you the chance to meet other parents who are feeling the same way you are.
  • Write down any questions you might have whenever they come to you. Take these questions to appointments and note down the answers.
  • The anniversary of your baby’s birth and death might be especially anxious for you and your partner. Let your healthcare team know that you may need some extra support around that time to talk through how you’re feeling and get the reassurance you need.
  • You can ask for a sticker or note on your maternity notes that reminds your healthcare team about the loss of your baby. This should mean that you don’t need to keep repeating the story at every appointment.
  • Think about contacting other parents who have been through a similar experience because it can help to speak with someone who really understands how you’re feeling. Join Tommy’s Facebook support group for parents who have lost a baby.
  • Try writing about how you’re feeling in a diary or letters. Lots of parents use this method to get their worries and fears out so they can start to work through them.
  • Get support from your midwife to write your birth plan. You may be able to get extra support during birth and afterwards.
  • Don’t feel the need to pack a hospital bag or buy any items for your baby. The thought of bringing home a live baby can feel impossible, and some mums and dads feel like they’re “jinxing it” if they start to plan and pack for the future. For most things, apart from a car seat, there is no immediate need. If you don’t feel able to pack, speak to your midwife. The hospital you’re booked with may have some clothes and nappies for straight after birth. You can buy anything else you need later.
  • This pregnancy can feel endless. Try to deal with each day as it comes. Break it down into chunks and think yourself, “How am I going to get through this afternoon?” It might be a walk, or a catch up with a friend. Just be kind to yourself.
  • Grief can be exhausting, even more so when you’re pregnant. Find little things that you like doing and try to focus on those – reading a magazine, having a bath, bingeing some TV, painting your nails or going for a run. Do anything you need to do to help you get through the day.
  • Keep an eye on your mental wellbing  and get help if you need it.

Parenting after the loss of a baby

The grief and anxiety often don’t stop just because you’ve taken home a longed for baby. Parenting after loss can be overwhelming and confusing.

Looking after a newborn is hard work and you may feel pressure to enjoy every moment because you weren’t able to bring your last baby home. It’s OK to feel exhausted and blue, you don’t have to feel happy and grateful all the time.

Having experienced neonatal death it can be hard to believe that everything is fine with this baby, especially in the early days. You might find yourself checking on them frequently when they’re sleeping and not wanting to be away from them.

Do what you need to do to help with your anxiety, including keeping your baby in your room, using baby monitors or checking on them during the night. But if it gets too much and you’re not getting any sleep, or you’re having frightening thoughts, speak to your midwife or health visitor.

The Lullaby Trust has information about how to make sure your baby is sleeping safely.

Sources

  1. NHS. When will my periods start again after pregnancy? http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/943.aspx?CategoryID=60&SubCategoryID=181 Page last reviewed: 28/03/2018 Next review due: 28/03/2021
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Last reviewed on October 4th, 2018. Next review date October 4th, 2021.

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