Miscarriages are a devastating and all-too-common occurrence for pregnant women. In fact, as many as 50 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.
For a woman who is trying to get pregnant, this can be an alarming statistic to consider, especially if she has gotten pregnant before and miscarried.
But, a miscarriage (a pregnancy loss is the loss of a fetus that occurs before 20 weeks of gestation, while a stillborn is anytime after 20 weeks) does not necessarily indicate future issues when it comes to conceiving and having a baby.
“Generally speaking, because it’s so common to have a miscarriage in your history, it does not necessarily mean you’ll have trouble conceiving and carrying a baby to full term,” explains Dr. Jennifer Butt, a New York City-based OB-GYN.
If you have suffered a miscarriage but you still want to try to get pregnant, here’s everything you need to know, from the physical effects to the emotional and mental changes you might experience.
Experiencing a Miscarriage
A first-trimester miscarriage can be asymptomatic, Butt explains. Meaning that you can still feel pregnant (nausea, breast tenderness, tiredness) because the pregnancy hormone is still regulating in your body.
Miscarriage can result in severe cramping and some spotting to heavy, period-like bleeding, Butt says.
“The peak of the passing of the miscarriage happens within a day, or even the span of a few hours,” Butt explains, adding that the bleeding and cramping will decrease after this time.
No matter how the miscarriage unfolds, or how far along in the pregnancy she was, this can be a traumatic experience for many women.
“A woman who experiences a miscarriage may experience feelings of surprise, or shock,” says Rachel Rabinor, LCSW, of San Diego. “This is particularly common when a woman has already had a successful pregnancy. She’s expecting a repeat of her past experience and a miscarriage can take her by surprise.”
Some women may experience denial or self-blame during this time. “Miscarriage gets ‘othered’ so quickly and when you recognize or are told it’s happening to you, it can take days or weeks for your brain to catch up to what’s happening or happened in your body,” says Lesli Desai, LICSW, of Seattle.
“The most common emotional block is believing that a miscarriage is your fault,” Desai adds, “That in some way, shape, or form, you did something or ate something—or didn’t do something— that caused or could have prevented the loss. That is never really the case.”
Seeking Support After a Miscarriage
While every woman and her reaction to a miscarriage is different (some women may experience the same risks of postpartum depression, with others may not feel any connection to the pregnancy or the loss), Desai recommends taking some time off and seeking out emotional support in any way you can.
If art therapy, support groups, or journaling your feelings is what works for you, do that. If you find comfort in friends and family, spend time with them. “Being gentle with yourself and asking for—and accepting—help is key,” she says.
Butt also recommends talking to other women in your life about their own experiences. Because miscarriages are so common, being open about it with others and learning about their experiences can make you feel less isolated.
“Know that you’re not alone and that this is extremely common,” Butt says adding, that “most often [a miscarriage] does not have any bearing on telling whether you’re able to carry to full term.”
Moving Forward After Your Miscarriage
Emotional and mental healing from a miscarriage will vary from woman-to-woman, as will her attempts or desire to get pregnant again. “It is important to understand that getting pregnant again won’t erase or replace the loss,” Desai says.
“The fear that the same thing will happen again in a subsequent pregnancy can be overwhelming,” Desai says, adding, “Some people will choose not to get pregnant again because of that fear and others may experience depression or anxiety more long term if they compartmentalize and minimize the miscarriage.”
If you have experienced a first-trimester miscarriage and do feel emotionally and mentally ready to try again, Butt says you can begin as early as when you get your next period. However, if you have had a second-trimester miscarriage, you’ll have to discuss options with your doctor.
“A history of stillborns might change the timing of a delivery,” Butt says, adding, “It’s much different than someone who had a first-trimester miscarriage.”
No matter what plan you and your partner, along with your doctor, come up with for another pregnancy, it’s still important to give yourself time to cope if that’s what you need to move forward.
Getting Pregnant After a Miscarriage
“Each pregnancy is very much a different pregnancy,” assures Butt, and with that comes different experiences, especially for those who have had a miscarriage (or miscarriages) in the past.
“Pregnancy after miscarriage can be an intense experience filled with many mixed emotions ranging from hope, joy, and excitement to fear, anxiety and even sadness,” Rabinor says.
These emotions and thoughts can ebb and flow throughout the pregnancy and being aware of them is important, Rabinor says. She encourages practicing mindfulness so that you can “bring yourself back to the present moment” rather than dwell on your worries.
Desai notes that “While pregnancy after loss or trying to conceive after loss doesn’t have to be traumatic, it does require some amount of processing and time, ideally with a support system who understands or women who can validate the emotions and experience.”