Miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss are devastating, heartbreaking experiences. For many couples, the decision to try again is just plain hard. Some women may not know whether they want to try to conceive again after a loss. Even among those who do know they want another baby, they may feel lost trying to determine the best timing. It is a common theme in questions asked in loss parent support groups.
How will we decide when to start trying to conceive another baby? How will I know I am ready? Is it okay to try right away? How long should we wait?
There are a lot of things to consider in finding the answers to these questions for yourself. Below are some important reminders that may help if you are struggling with this decision.
1. There are incredibly valid reasons why it is scary.
It can be terrifying to try to get pregnant after a loss. The last time you did this, it resulted in what was likely the most traumatic experience of your entire life. It caused grief and pain that most people try very hard to not have to imagine. It may seem very logical to others that “at least” you can “just try again,” but it’s really not that simple for those of us who have been there. We often talk about pregnancy after loss requiring bravery, but even just the decision to try to conceive again after loss is courageous. Making this decision requires facing your biggest fear and worrying about reliving your worst nightmare.
2. You don’t need to decide right away.
You may feel some pressure immediately after a loss to know what your path may be moving forward. Thinking about having a baby eventually may help you feel like you will eventually get to your goal. Despite this pressure, you don’t need to know right after your loss exactly what the right timing will be for you and your family. Immediately after your loss you are in the midst of grief. Even in the first few weeks it may feel like a lot of time has passed, but you are still in the immediate aftermath of the loss. Give yourself time to grieve now without the pressure of knowing what or when the next steps are for you. You will figure that out in time.
3. Your specific situation matters.
You can ask every other loss parent for advice on if and when to try to become pregnant again, but your specific situation matters too. Your age, your partner’s age, and your fertility history are all factors in this decision. You may feel you have a lot of time and it is okay to wait. You may decide that in an ideal world you would wait a little longer, but you know the amount of time or the fertility treatments it has taken to conceive in the past. The specifics of your loss and your medical situation are incredibly important factors. Your medical provider may have given you a specific period of time that you must wait between pregnancies because of these factors. You may be waiting for genetic testing or autopsy results, hoping for answers about your previous loss, or waiting for your body to heal. If you do get answers, your timing may be determined out of medical necessity. Furthermore, the size of your family right now and the size of the family that you want to have are all factors that affect the decision on if and when trying to conceive again will be right for you.
4. The timing that is right is different for everyone
Some people decide that trying to conceive right away is the best for them. Others wait a year or more and still are uncertain about whether or when to start trying again. The timing that feels best varies so much from person to person. For me, it felt really important to wait until after my first son’s due date to start trying again after we lost him at 20 weeks. I think this gave me some closure that I didn’t realize I had been waiting for. Knowing that my pregnancy would have been over if we hadn’t lost him made it somehow easier to think about getting pregnant again. That being said, my partner and I agreed that if we lost another pregnancy, which we did, we would likely wait only as long as our doctors directed. It is okay to start trying sooner or right away if that is what is right for you. This doesn’t mean the grief will go away, but it may mean you are making progress toward your goal. It is also okay to wait and give yourself more time to grieve.
5. Trying again isn’t an option for everyone.
For some people, trying to have a baby after loss isn’t an option or isn’t an option that they choose. Some couples may try to have a baby after loss but may not end up conceiving or bringing home a living child. Many other loss parents choose other options to try to add living children to their family. These are all valid choices to make too, and none of these situations make your parenthood to the babies you have lost or the children you are able to parent any less valid.
6. You may not ever feel “ready,” and that’s okay.
For many things in life there is an idea that you will just “know” the right choice for you. I have seen advice from many women suggesting that they had some sense of when it was the right time for them to begin trying to get pregnant again, but it’s okay if you don’t “know.” You don’t need to wait until you “know” you are ready. I was never going to be “ready” to do something that last time resulted in horrible trauma. Instead, I knew that I was as ready as I was going to be and waiting wasn’t going to help me get any more ready. I wasn’t ready to be pregnant, but I didn’t want to not be pregnant any longer either. I was jealous of others who were pregnant, and at that point, I was the only one standing between myself and at least trying to make progress toward that. We had given ourselves some time to grieve, and we knew that the grief would continue whether I was pregnant or not. If we wanted a living child we were going to have to start trying to conceive at some point, and it was going to be scary no matter what. If you know what you want and you have given yourself enough time to grieve (for now), then it’s okay to start trying when you feel ready enough.
7. Trying for another baby can be more emotional than you realize.
Once you have decided that you are as ready as you are going to be, don’t be surprised if it is still hard. You may wish you could be excited about trying to have a baby, like you were before you knew the pain of pregnancy, infant, or child loss. But the reality is that you know that pain now, and you may not be excited about trying again. The week that my partner and I decided to start trying to conceive again after we lost our first son, I came home from work one night and could not stop crying. I sobbed in a way I had not for months, and I didn’t really know why. I worried that this meant that I wasn’t ready to try again, but I received reassurance from other loss moms that it made sense and that I shouldn’t let these emotions stop me from moving forward if that was what I wanted. Starting to try to get pregnant again when your previous pregnancy ended terribly is incredibly scary. These anxieties are going to come and go throughout future pregnancies and, quite honestly, throughout the rest of our lives. It is okay to feel a mix of emotions about trying to get pregnant again because this journey is hard. These intense emotions don’t mean that you aren’t ready enough.