Support Groups and Timing Another Pregnancy

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QUESTION

Dear Experts,
My husband and I recently suffered a pregnancy loss at 19 weeks. I am looking for support groups in the area. I have been unsuccessful in locating someplace to assist in dealing with this. Also, when do you know you are ready to try again for a healthy baby?

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Aimee

ANSWER

Dear Aimee,
We are so sorry that your baby died. To find a support group in your area, ask your obstetrician or midwife, your local hospital, or call the national SHARE office-1-800-821-6819 -- they have a list of support groups around the country, and even if there is not a SHARE group nearby, may be able to connect you with another group.

As for when you are ready to try again for a healthy baby, there are no rules about timing another pregnancy. That's because there are so many factors that play a part in this decision. There are reasons for waiting, as well as reasons for diving right in, and each individual couple needs to weigh these factors according to their unique circumstances and feelings. Instead of having a doctor prescribe how many months to wait, you benefit from having information and open-ended advice, so you can make the best decision for yourselves.

The advantages to waiting all involve the idea of giving your body sufficient time to recover physically from the pregnancy, plus giving you more time to recover emotionally before you embark on the turmoil of a subsequent pregnancy. Giving yourself enough time to recover physically offers your next pregnancy the best chance of succeeding, and your doctor can advise you on a time frame for that. Since you were well into your second trimester, your body needs more time to recover than it would with a first trimester pregnancy loss. And especially if you experienced complications, you may also want more time to research or consult with doctors about what went wrong, and time to arm yourself with information on what you can do to prevent recurrence or other problems.

While waiting until your body has recovered physically is always a good idea, emotional recovery is not as clear cut or absolute. You'll never be completely "over" your baby's death, so after you're ready physically, you are the best judge as to whether you're ready emotionally to take the plunge or whether it's better to wait even longer.

Many moms wait longer, feeling like they need more time to gather their courage, or hoping that their anxiety during the pregnancy will be less if they aren't in the thick of their grief during that time. Some dads need more time to warm up to the idea, especially if their partner, the mom, experienced complications during the pregnancy or postpartum period. Many moms also feel that as their grief softens, they'll be better able to enjoy a new baby more. On the other hand, many mothers believe that getting pregnant is a key to their emotional recovery.

Indeed, for many mothers, the desire to become pregnant right away can feel like an obsession. It is only natural for you to long for a baby in your arms, especially when your body is still recovering physically and hormonally from its pregnant state. If your "biological clock" is ticking or if you've experienced infertility, the anxiety of waiting may be greater than the anxiety of proceeding. For moms who have older children, they may want the next child spaced closer rather than farther. Other moms feel like they have an obstetrician who will be especially supportive and vigilant in terms of prenatal care, giving them the courage they need to go ahead. Or you may believe that you are managing your fear or anxiety as well as you ever will, so now is as good a time as any. You may also find solace in the thought that another pregnancy is a chance to recapture some of your lost dreams and that having another baby can give you the positive childbirth and parenting experience you long for. If your partner is eager to try again and you can be supportive of each other during this time, this can be a signal to move forward.

Here are some of the many factors you'll need to weigh to make the decision that's right for you:

  • Ask your doctor questions about what went wrong and what, if anything, you can do to increase your chances of carrying your next pregnancy to term with a healthy baby or babies.
  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of postponing pregnancy.
  • Figure out which of the pros and cons apply to your situation, and then decide which ones are the most important to you.
  • Consider the balance of your physical and emotional needs.
  • Talk to other bereaved parents about their decisions and experiences. Look for books and articles to read. Listening to other perspectives can shed light on what's right for you.
  • You don't have to decide today when (or even whether) to get pregnant. As you mull over the possibilities, you'll find the answer when you're ready. Take it a month at a time. Avoid the pressure to get pregnant by a specific date.
  • Your decision-making can rely on both rational thought and emotion. Weigh your options and listen to your heart and your intuition.
  • Even if you know that waiting is the right decision in your situation, recognize that it can be frustrating. Likewise, even if you feel as ready as you're ever going to be, forging ahead can make you anxious. These feelings are natural and don't necessarily indicate that you should change your decision.
  • Whether it occurs sooner or later, another pregnancy can have a healing effect. Take all the time you need.

We wish you the best,
-- Debbie and Mara
The Childbirth Complication Expert Team