Pregnancy can be a great time of joy, but it can also be filled with worry and even sadness — especially if you’ve previously experienced a miscarriage.
It’s normal to feel a range of emotions after loss. And while you may not hear your friends talking about it over coffee, miscarriage is actually relatively common, so you aren’t alone in your feelings.
There’s good news here, though. Most women who experience a miscarriage will go on to have a healthy baby.
The journey isn’t always a straight line, but here’s what you need to know about conceiving again and having a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage.
Some 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first trimester or before week 12 of pregnancy. Another 1 to 5 percent of women miscarry early in the second trimester, between weeks 13 and 19.
And it may be that up to 50 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but that many happen before a woman ever even knows she is pregnant.
Miscarriage is caused by things like:
- issues with baby’s chromosomes (blighted ovum, molar pregnancy, translocation)
- issues with uterus or cervix (septate uterus, scar tissue, fibroids)
- issues with mother’s health (autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances)
- infections (sexually transmitted infections, listeriosis)
Some miscarriages happen abruptly — you may see blood and then quickly pass the pregnancy tissues. Others, like missed miscarriages, may happen without symptoms. You may not discover there’s anything wrong until you visit your doctor for an ultrasound appointment.
No matter how it happens, you may experience intense feelings of grief, anger, or sadness. You may even feel numb at first but go on to experience a variety of feelings later on.
It may take several weeks to a month or more for your body to recover from miscarriage. The timeline is individual, depending on the type of miscarriage you experience and whether or not you need medical intervention, like a dilation and curettage (D and C) to help pass the fetus.
You may be surprised to learn that you can get pregnant after a miscarriage without even having a “normal” menstrual period. How?
Well, after you miscarry, your body starts the process of getting back into its usual reproductive routine. This means that you’ll experience ovulation before getting another period.
Ovulation may happen as soon as 2 weeks after your miscarriage. If you become pregnant during this first ovulation, you may see that positive sign on the pregnancy test sooner than you thought possible.
There are several
One 2017 study revealed that getting pregnant within 3 months of a miscarriage may have a better outcome — lower risk of a subsequent miscarriage — than waiting longer. One theory is that a previous pregnancy may “prime” the body to accept a future pregnancy.
This all being said, your doctor may have guidelines for you to follow specific to your health and your miscarriage.
For example, if you had a D and C procedure, your doctor may suggest you wait several months before trying again to give your uterine lining a chance to build back up to healthy levels.
If you’ve had repeated miscarriages, your doctor may want to run some tests to determine if there’s a root cause before trying again.
Emotionally, you may not feel ready to delve right back into trying after experiencing loss. So, while you physically can get pregnant right away, there are various situations that may warrant waiting.
In the end, you should wait until you feel both physically and emotionally ready — but there’s no reason to wait longer once you get the go-ahead from your doctor.
Most women go on to have healthy pregnancies after experiencing one miscarriage. In fact, the overall risk of experiencing a miscarriage — 20 percent — does not increase if you have had one loss.
However, around 1 in 100 women experience what’s called recurrent miscarriages, or two or more miscarriages back-to-back.
Repeated miscarriages may be caused by things like blood clotting issues, hormone issues, certain autoimmune disorders, high blood sugar, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
If you have had two miscarriages, your risk of experiencing another rises to 28 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic. After three consecutive losses, the risk of another miscarriage rises to 43 percent.
For this reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you have testing done if you experience three or more miscarriages in a row.
Be sure to work closely with your doctor if you experience recurrent pregnancy loss.
While up to 75 percent of repeated miscarriages may be of unknown cause, there are certain health situations that may put you at greater risk of loss. If you can determine what they are, treatment for the underlying cause may help you get and stay pregnant.
Tests may include things like:
- blood tests to check for hormone levels (thyroid, progesterone), blood clotting disorders, or autoimmune disorders
- genetic tests — karyotyping — to look for genetic variations in either partner that may be affecting chromosomes at conception
- ultrasound — transvaginal or abdominal — to examine the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes
- hysterosalpingogram, a procedure to visualize the uterus and fallopian tubes where your uterus is injected with a radioactive dye for an X-ray reading
- sonohysterogram, a procedure to visualize the uterus and lining where your uterus is injected with fluid for reading an image via transvaginal ultrasound.
- hysteroscopy, a procedure used to visualize the cervix and uterus where a thin, lighted tube (hysteroscope) is inserted into the vagina
- laparoscopy, a procedure used to visualize the outside of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries where a specialized camera (endoscope) is inserted into the body through an incision in the abdomen
Again, you may never find out the exact cause of your losses even after testing.
While this may be concerning and upsetting, the good news is that even after three miscarriages with no known cause, around 65 percent of couples go on to have a successful next pregnancy.
Related: What is a chemical pregnancy?
It’s important to understand that you cannot necessarily prevent miscarriage. Some 50 percent of losses happen due to what are called chromosomal abnormalities.
Women over 35 are also more likely to have miscarriages because eggs tend to have more chromosomal abnormalities with age.
Still, following a healthy lifestyle can help foster a healthy pregnancy.
- Try drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet. Experts recommend that women drink 10 cups of fluids and eat an additional 300 calories each day starting in the second trimester to support pregnancy.
- While you’re at it, be sure to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid to help maintain your nutrient stores.
- Exercise moderately for at least
150 minuteseach week. Walking/jogging, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are good choices. You’ll want to avoid certain activities, like contact sports, activities with risk of falling, or ones, like hot yoga, where you can become overheated. (And check in with your doctor for guidelines specific to your health and pregnancy).
- Avoid substances like alcohol, nicotine, and drugs. Caffeine is another thing to keep in check. It’s fine to drink coffee, but try to stick to one 12-oz. cup (200 milligrams) of any caffeinated beverage daily.
- Keep up with your prenatal appointments and call your doctor with any concerns you have regarding your health or your baby’s health.
- Keep the rest of your health in mind as well — this means managing any chronic conditions you have and taking your medications as directed.
While taking care of all the physical stuff, also be sure to check in with your emotions. It’s completely normal to feel a range of feelings during pregnancy after miscarriage.
And while there’s no right or wrong way to feel, you might consider seeking help if you experience anxiety and/or depression.
A licensed therapist can help you navigate the many emotions you’re feeling and offer tools to help you cope. You can also continue these conversations with your partner or a close friend or family member.
Pregnancy after miscarriage may not be what you expect. You may want to feel excited and happy, but end up feeling guilty or sad instead. Maybe you’re filled with anxiety about miscarrying again. Or maybe you’re just taking it all one day at a time.
Whatever you’re going through — take your time and give yourself some grace.
Some women find comfort in referring to their new pregnancy and baby as a “rainbow baby.” This term has been around for a while and is pretty popular online and on social media.
In short: A rainbow baby is the colorful light after a dark and stormy time of loss. Using this term may help you reframe your experience and honor both the baby you lost and the baby you are carrying.
Of course, you may also feel some guilt or pain in celebrating the birth of a rainbow baby. Mixed emotions are definitely part of the game. You don’t have to go through this by yourself. Really.
Your risk of anxiety and depression, particularly postpartum depression, is slightly
Remember: There’s no right or wrong way to feel about your miscarriage.
The same goes when you’re pregnant again after loss.
For the majority of women, the odds of carrying a pregnancy to term and meeting your rainbow baby are in your favor. No matter what happens, though, know you’re not alone. Reach out to friends and family for support when you need it.
And if you do experience repeated losses — connect with your doctor. You may have an underlying health condition that needs treatment.