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Why can't I be happy now that I'm pregnant again after miscarrying?
Even though you've conceived again, it may be a while before you can enjoy this pregnancy. It's normal for a woman who has had a miscarriage to worry that she might lose this baby, too. That can make it difficult to feel excited about a subsequent pregnancy and trust that it will last.
"A pregnancy after a loss can be the longest nine months of a woman's life," says Charlene Nelson, executive director of the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Center in Wayzata, Minnesota. "There are so many things going on emotionally that anxiety is bound to be prevalent throughout the pregnancy."
Kim Kluger-Bell, a psychotherapist and author of Unspeakable Losses: Understanding the Experience of Pregnancy Loss, Miscarriage, and Abortion, agrees: "It's going to be stressful – especially up to the time when the pregnancy was lost the last time."
Both Nelson and Kluger-Bell suggest not glossing over the anniversary of a pregnancy loss but rather recognizing and trying to accept it. You'll probably feel more sad and anxious as the date approaches, and that's normal.
Don't beat yourself up for not feeling happy all the time. Allow yourself to feel your feelings: A good cry now and then relieves a lot of tension. And give yourself permission to share your feelings with trusted friends. Simply talking about fears can often alleviate them.
"Once a woman passes the point of the previous loss, attachment to the pregnancy usually forms, and she starts to feel more positive," says Kluger-Bell. But don't assume your anxiety will disappear at that point. You may find that being so aware of the unpredictability of pregnancy means your fear and worry persist through labor and delivery. On the other hand, you may find your anxiety fading as you get closer to labor and meeting your baby.
You may also still be grieving for the baby you lost, and that grief might dominate whatever joy you're experiencing. Unfortunately, our society doesn't always make room for feeling happiness and sadness at the same time, so people often feel they have to choose one or the other. But you don't have to choose – all your feelings are equally valid and real.
How can I cope with my anxiety?
There's no one answer. Chances are you'll feel anxious much of the time. But as you reach each milestone, such as hearing the heartbeat or feeling your baby move, you'll be reassured that things are progressing well. Here are some things you can do to stay positive:
Focus on one day at a time. Easier said than done, but it really works. When you feel yourself worrying about the future, stop yourself and think only about today. "Affirm each day," suggests Nelson. "Celebrate the completion of each week."
Notice how this pregnancy is different from the pregnancy you lost, and especially consider how things are going better. Pay attention to what's going well each day and how you and your baby are staying healthy.
Take good care of yourself. Do what you can to make this pregnancy a healthy one. Pay attention to your health and well-being. Sleep, good nutrition, breaks during the day, and regular physical activity will help you feel physically well and emotionally balanced. If possible, treat yourself to a prenatal massage now and then, and let the massage therapist know you're dealing with a stressful pregnancy. Prenatal yoga and meditation may also help.
Find reasonable ways to manage stress and anxiety. You have enough to do just coping with the loss you've experienced. Don't overschedule yourself, pile on additional responsibilities at home or work, or overcommit yourself to family and friends. Focus on taking good care of yourself, which is within your control.
Try relaxation exercises. Make up your own mantra, such as, "Be healthy for the baby." Nelson suggests talking to your baby to enhance the bonding process.
Use relaxation techniques if your worries are keeping you from getting enough sleep at night. Talk to your healthcare provider if your worries keep you up at night for more than a week or two, or happen each night for a week.
Empower yourself with knowledge about your loss. For example, if a past loss was diagnosed as a blighted ovum or cervical insufficiency, you might want to research those conditions. You may feel more in control of your situation if you understand what happened before. (Stop if too much information makes you feel overwhelmed.)
Know you're not alone. If you don't know what caused your loss, recognize that many miscarriages and stillbirths don't have explanations. Remember that having had one miscarriage doesn't necessarily make you any more likely to have another one. Instead of worrying about something going wrong, try to focus on how well you and the baby are doing now. Chances are good that everything will be fine.
Communicate with your partner. Your partner suffered a loss too, and you may want to turn to each other for comfort. But men and women often deal with loss differently, and although talking about what happened may make you feel better, it may make your partner feel worse. Respect each other's ways of coping with the loss, and don't take it personally if you deal with it differently.
Check in with your doctor or midwife often. Seeing your healthcare provider regularly for prenatal care can reassure you that your baby is doing well. This is especially important if you're considered high risk. Although being labeled high risk sounds scary, it can actually be beneficial. "You'll be monitored more closely, which can be a positive thing, especially if you're nervous," says Nelson.
Ask to come in between scheduled visits to listen to the heartbeat if it will make you feel better. And if your provider isn't sensitive to your past loss, it might be time to find someone else.
Find a support group. Kluger-Bell suggests contacting Share, an organization that supports people who've experienced pregnancy and infant loss, to help you find a group in your area. Sharing intimate details with strangers might feel uncomfortable at first, but group members often become trusted friends who can truly understand your feelings.
If the particular group you're attending doesn't seem right for you, ask your provider for other options. You'll also find ongoing support in the our site Community in our Pregnancy After Loss group.
Seek professional help if you need it. If you have symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety, get a referral to a therapist. The less emotional and physical stress to your system, the healthier you will be. And treating these problems during pregnancy will reduce your chances of postpartum depression or anxiety.
A therapist who specializes in perinatal mood disorders will be best equipped to support you during pregnancy and postpartum. Ask your healthcare provider for a recommendation, or search online directories, such as Psychology Today and GoodTherapy. Postpartum Support International can help you find local resources and offers free live phone chats with experts as well as online support groups.
Should we wait to tell friends and family we're pregnant again?
This is a personal decision, and you should do what feels comfortable. Many people wait until they've passed the point of their previous miscarriage to share their news, but others find it helpful to tell family and close friends earlier so that they have a support system in place no matter what happens.
Take some time to think about this, and talk it over with your partner. Make certain you both agree on what to do before you start letting people know.
When sharing your news, keep in mind that your friends and family may expect you to be "okay" now that you're pregnant again. Do your best to avoid well-meaning people who say things like, "See? The other one wasn't meant to be," or "Now you can relax and be happy." You may need to explain that being pregnant again doesn't mean you're done grieving your loss.
No matter what, don't let others' expectations invalidate your experience. Remember – there are no "shoulds" when it comes to grieving, and it's okay to not be okay.