It’s no secret that pregnancy loss comes with a wide range of emotions — like anger, sadness, guilt, bitterness, and shame, just to name a few. Research shows that pregnancy loss is also likely to cause distress, and mental health challenges often appear in subsequent pregnancies after loss.
During pregnancy, the body is extremely sensitive to stress. In fact, evidence suggests that stress is associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm labor and low birth weight.
Given the effects of stress during pregnancy, it’s important that expectant parents learn how to cope with these emotions“Coping during pregnancy: a systematic review and recommendations,” Christine M. Guardino and Christine Dunkel Schetter, Health Psychology Review, … Continue reading. Here are six ways to manage stress during your pregnancy that follows a loss.
1. See a Therapist
Pregnancy loss produces grief that’s different than other deaths, and these complicated emotions carry into subsequent pregnancies. For many families, counseling is essential to process a reproductive loss and deal with feelings of inadequacy and isolation“Healing the wounds of pregnancy loss,” Kirsten Weir, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/05/pregnancy-loss. Studies indicate that continued psychological support during a pregnancy that follows a loss may improve the pregnant person’s mental well-being and reduce adverse pregnancy-related outcomes“Psychological and support interventions to reduce levels of stress, anxiety or depression on women’s subsequent pregnancy with a history of miscarriage: an empty systematic review, ” … Continue reading.
Mental health professionals might use approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Another helpful model is something called the reproductive story, a concept that supports you through writing your story“Trauma and the Reproductive Story,” Janet Jaffe, Psychotherapy.net, https://www.psychotherapy.net/article/grief/trauma-and-the-reproductive-story. This allows you to discover how your deeply held beliefs about parenthood were disrupted and helps you to stop blaming yourself for the previous pregnancy loss.
2. Seek Support
Choose a couple trusted people in your life who can be your support system. This could be your partner, a family member, or a close friend. Ask one of them to accompany you to prenatal appointments and ultrasounds, as these visits can be stressful during pregnancy after loss.
In addition, consider joining a support group, whether it’s in person or online“Pregnancy loss: How to cope,” Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/in-depth/pregnancy-loss/art-20047983. Connecting and sharing with others who’ve been through pregnancy loss and are now pregnant again can be helpful. Many folks find this type of group support to be comforting because it reduces lonely feelings and sometimes instills hope and belief.
3. Practice Mindfulness
To be mindful simply means to be aware of what you are experiencing as it’s happening without judgment. During a stressful pregnancy, mindfulness can help you stay calm and improve your mood. Some basic mindfulness techniques include connecting with your breath and labeling your feelings. When you’re just starting to learn about mindfulness, try an app to guide you through the practice“How to Manage Stress Naturally During Pregnancy,” Abbey Kruper, PsyD, et al, Society of Behavioral Medicine, … Continue reading.
Another mindful way to help with stress during pregnancy is journaling. Many people find that writing their thoughts and feelings is a great way to process emotions. You can record your emotional ups and downs daily in a notebook or journal, or even speak them into your phone“Easing the Anxiety of Pregnancy After Miscarriage,” Lois Baker, The State University of New York, University at Buffalo, http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2005/04/7246.html.
4. Set Milestones
After you get a positive pregnancy test, the following months until your due date can feel like forever. You might want to approach your pregnancy after loss by breaking it down into more manageable chunks. For example, focus on getting through your first prenatal visit, then the first heartbeat check, then the anatomy scan, and so on.
For many loss parents, though, even this strategy is still stressful and overwhelming. If that’s the case, just work on getting through one day at a time.
5. Sleep Well
Sleep is especially good for physical and psychological health. While it can be difficult to get the recommended 7-9 hours per night, there are a few ways to promote good sleep habits.
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes if possible. (Yes, pregnancy exhaustion makes it hard!)
- Stay away from caffeine when it’s close to bedtime.
- Refrain from foods that might be difficult to digest — therefore, disrupting sleep. Common culprits are fatty or fried items, heavy or rich meals, and carbonated drinks.
- Go out in the sunlight during the day if you can and make sure your room is cool and dark at night.
6. Be Active
Exercise is an excellent strategy for coping with stress during pregnancy. Moderate activity also helps with sleep quality and mental well-being. Prenatal care providers typically recommend that, if you exercised before getting pregnant, stick with your chosen activity and make modifications as necessary.
If you’re not used to working out, consider low-impact activities like walking or swimming for 20-30 minutes each day. Another great option is prenatal yoga, which encourages the mind-body connection. Find an activity you enjoy and try to schedule it into your day. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by how great you feel when you complete a workout!
Takeaways About Managing Stress During Pregnancy
Navigating pregnancy after loss is stressful, but with these techniques, you can learn how to cope with your emotions. And if you’ve tried them all and are still feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your prenatal care provider and your therapist so they help you re-evaluate your mental health.
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- Speaking The Truth: Support Groups after Loss
|↑1||“Coping during pregnancy: a systematic review and recommendations,” Christine M. Guardino and Christine Dunkel Schetter, Health Psychology Review, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904449/|
|↑2||“Healing the wounds of pregnancy loss,” Kirsten Weir, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/05/pregnancy-loss|
|↑3||“Psychological and support interventions to reduce levels of stress, anxiety or depression on women’s subsequent pregnancy with a history of miscarriage: an empty systematic review, ” Indra San Lazaro Campillo, et al, BMJ Open, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5595175/|
|↑4||“Trauma and the Reproductive Story,” Janet Jaffe, Psychotherapy.net, https://www.psychotherapy.net/article/grief/trauma-and-the-reproductive-story|
|↑5||“Pregnancy loss: How to cope,” Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/in-depth/pregnancy-loss/art-20047983|
|↑6||“How to Manage Stress Naturally During Pregnancy,” Abbey Kruper, PsyD, et al, Society of Behavioral Medicine, https://www.sbm.org/healthy-living/how-to-manage-stress-naturally-during-pregnancy|
|↑7||“Easing the Anxiety of Pregnancy After Miscarriage,” Lois Baker, The State University of New York, University at Buffalo, http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2005/04/7246.html|