Pregnancy After Stillbirth – What to Expect

Pregnancy after Stillbirth - What to Expect

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Pregnancy brings so many hopes. Despite the usual challenges of pregnancy, expectant mothers can’t wait to welcome their little bundle of joy into this world. However, at times, things may take an unexpected turn and lead to complications. Some challenges can be managed with willpower, some, with the help of an experienced obstetrician. However, there could be severe complications that lead to the loss of the baby before or during delivery, i.e. stillbirth.

It is observed that approximately 1 out of 100 pregnancies end up in stillbirth. Of course, it is hard for any woman to recover from the loss of her child, but it is not the end. You can try to get pregnant again. But, there are certain things you should know about stillbirth and pregnancy to prepare yourself for another pregnancy if, unfortunately, you have experienced the loss of your baby. Let’s begin with understanding what stillbirth is and why it is caused.

What Causes Stillbirth?

Stillbirth is a devastating experience for a mother, not only physically but emotionally too. Since expectant mothers have little or no control over stillbirth, they could hit a low and take time to recover. Knowing the causes of stillbirth may then help them to recover sooner and prepare for another pregnancy. Here are some of them.

1. Birth Defects

Birth defects are amongst the most common causes of stillbirth. It is observed that one in every four stillbirths is caused due to birth defects. These defects may not surface or become prominent until the birth of the child. In some cases, these may surface during the autopsy.

2. Health Conditions of the Mother or Lifestyle Choices

Sometimes a health problem in the mother may also result in stillbirth. These conditions may include high blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, or other such medical conditions. Apart from health, sometimes certain lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs may result in a miscarriage.

A woman drinking wine

3. Complications Related to Placenta or Umbilical Cord

When your baby is in your womb, his basic life support system is the placenta and the umbilical cord. However, sometimes one or both of these organs may not function properly and not provide nutrients to your growing foetus, and this may cause stillbirth.

4. Infection

At times, infections in the placenta, the foetus, or in the mother could also lead to stillbirth. Most cases of stillbirth due to infection are common before week 24 of the pregnancy.

Most women who have overcome the loss of their baby due to stillbirth think of another pregnancy. However, it is important for them to do so with complete guidance from a specialist to ensure they and their babies are healthy. Below, we talk about most concerns women have when they are trying to conceive after stillbirth.

How Long Should You Wait to Get Pregnant Again After  Stillbirth?

There is no hard-and-fast rule for the wait time to get pregnant after stillbirth. It is strictly a personal choice as far as trying to have another baby after a stillbirth is concerned. Some studies suggest that if a pregnant woman’s due date is close to the anniversary of the stillbirth, it may increase the chances of anxiety and stress levels in her. On the other hand, some studies revealed that women might overcome major psychological ill-effects within a year after the stillbirth. Coming to a conclusion from both these studies, many experts believe that it is good to wait for 6 months to a year before trying to get pregnant again after stillbirth.

How to Prepare for a Pregnancy After Stillbirth

A woman should prepare herself for pregnancy both physically as well as mentally. It is important that you recover completely from your previous delivery as you lose your pregnancy weight and must be taking your antenatal vitamins. So, to get ready for pregnancy again, you must have an optimum weight. Also, if you are planning a pregnancy after a stillbirth and had a C-section, then you may have to wait a bit longer until your body heals completely. As far as preparing emotionally for the pregnancy, it is important that you are through with the grief and sorrow of losing your baby before you plan to have another one.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Waiting to Try to Conceive?

You may want to wait before you try to get pregnant again and it is a personal choice. However, there are some pros and cons of waiting to get pregnant that you should be aware of:

Pros:

  • It gives more time to the woman’s body to regain the lost strength and nutrients and prepare for the next pregnancy.
  • It gives ample time to the parents to grieve their lost baby.
  • You are better prepared to have another pregnancy, both physically and mentally.

Cons:

  • You may grieve for a longer period, and this may keep you stressed and anxious.
  • In case you are older, then your chances of fertility also get affected.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Trying to Conceive Quickly?

Some parents may want to try and conceive soon after the stillbirth, and it is their decision. However, it will be a good idea to know what are the various pros and cons of taking this decision:

Pros:

  • In case your biological clock is ticking, then it will be a great option to try to get pregnant again soon.
  • It may shift your focus from grief to welcoming your baby into this world.

Cons:

  • The news of pregnancy may shock your family and friends; this may confuse them too.
  • You may subconsciously be trying to suppress your grief by getting pregnant again.
  • You may not physically be strong to support another pregnancy, and this may increase your chances of bearing another loss.

How to Manage Anxiety in Pregnancy After Stillbirth

A woman who has lost her baby recently may be going through a lot of anxiety and stress, which may harm her emotionally and physically too. However, it is important that she manages her anxiety to avoid complications in her pregnancy. Here are some ways to cope with anxiety after stillbirth:

1. Get Good Sleep

Anxiety and stress can take a toll on your sleep and leave you feeling stressed. Hence, you must try to get a good sleep. Before going to bed, you can listen to some soothing music. You can also practise light yoga or meditation before sleeping. Sleep deprivation makes you more anxious; hence it is important that you rest well.

2. Express Your Fears

It is absolutely fine to be afraid when trying for another pregnancy after stillbirth, but what is not okay is, not talking about it. Make sure you talk about your fears to your partner, family, or friends. You can also speak to a gynaecologist if something troubles you.

A doctor offers medical advice to a couple

3. Prepare to Have Awkward Conversations

People may ask you all sorts of weird questions that may arouse the feeling of sadness in you. Prepare yourself mentally to deal with intriguing questions. And ignore certain questions if they get too much for you.

4. Take Each Day as It Comes

Experiences of the past delivery may haunt you, and as your delivery date will near, you will think about that more often. But try to distract yourself. Think positive and take each day as it comes. Also, refrain from thinking only about the delivery.

5. Get Support from Family and Friends

Near and dear ones provide optimum support during difficult times. Instead of closing on them, let them help you. Spend time with them, talk about your fears, and you never know they may give you helpful suggestions. Seeking support from friends and family will only help you so don’t push them away from your life.

6. It Is Okay to Be Anxious

Do not get scared or worried because of your anxiety; it is normal for you to feel so. Just don’t let that anxiety control you. Talk to your partner about it; he will understand and perhaps make you feel better.

7. Get Professional Help

In case you are not able to manage your anxiety, you should seek immediate medical help from a professional.

What Increases the Risk of Having Another Stillbirth?

In most cases, the second pregnancy is fine, so there is no need to worry as long as the pregnancy is healthy. Also, there is not enough proof that offers an explanation of what increases the risk of a woman to have stillbirth the second time.

What Are the Chances of Successful Pregnancy After Stillbirth?

The chances of a healthy pregnancy after stillbirth are good if you do not have a high-risk pregnancy. However, the chances of success may depend on various factors. It will be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor or genetic counsellor to establish the success rate of your pregnancy after stillbirth.

Tips to Prevent Another Stillbirth

Here are some tips that you should keep in mind if you wish to prevent the chances of another stillbirth:

  • Increase the intake of folic acid.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Get an early ultrasound done.
  • Do not skip antenatal visits.
  • Keep your weight in check.
  • Get screened for any foetal defects or abnormalities.
  • Get your diabetes and hypertension under control (if you have any).
  • Monitor your baby’s movements from the beginning of the second trimester.
  • Follow a healthy diet.
  • Opt for a planned c-section, in case your baby is in the breech position.

If you are planning to get pregnant again after stillbirth, it will be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor and know how to effectively manage your pregnancy and have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

Also Read: Getting Pregnant with Donor Eggs – Success Rate, Pros and Cons