The other day I stumbled across this Babycenter blog regarding how long to wait to conceive after a miscarriage. Michelle Stein mentions new research from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, that after studying 1000 women who had lost babies before 20 weeks they found no medical reason to wait 3 months as previously thought. I am a firm believer in following doctors’ advice, but I can see that if you miscarry naturally, there would be no reason to wait if you and your partner feel emotionally ready. Of course, how do you define “emotionally ready?” For me it was imagining being pregnant and feeling ok about that, knowing I had also stopped constantly reliving the emotional scars. Of course I still thought about her, but I felt like myself again most of the time. Regarding physically, you should rely on your doctor’s advice and how your body feels. I had a procedure after we lost Grace at 22 weeks, so my doctor wanted me to wait 2 cycles (this seemed to take forever, because I didn’t know how long it would take until my body got my first cycle back). But, when I went in for my check-up, he told me to wait an additional cycle. I desperately wanted to get the process started again, because it felt like I had been waiting an eternity, and I didn’t know how long it would take me to get pregnant again (it had taken 8 cycles for Grace). I am a rule-follower so we complied only because he thought my uterus needed more time to heal, but secretly I hoped for an “accident.” Ironically, just after that third cycle I remember feeling like I was emotionally healed, and if I were to become pregnant, I felt ready, more than I did back at the second cycle. (you can read my journal from back then here). Then, immediately after I told Scott I felt “emotionally healed,” I found out I was pregnant.
From my experience leading support groups with women who have experienced loss on all different levels, I definitely believe that being emotionally ready before conceiving puts you in the best place. I understand there are other cases where conceiving helped bring emotional healing, but my advice is to wait until you feel ready. When a mom-to-be starts attending our group after a recent loss, often her first loss, this is the first question she asks. “When did you guys start trying again?” It is normal to feel conflicted about the baby you have just loss but simultaneously wanting to move on and try again for another baby. It’s the natural tug of emotions for validating and remembering the baby you lost and so desperately wanting to fulfill the dream of becoming a parent or having another child.
So when the mom-to-be asks our group “when?,” what she’s really asking is how to make sense of all these feelings and desire to be pregnant again–when can she allow herself permission? The answer is “when you are ready.” The answer may sound frustrating, but what I mean is, you will know when it’s time to try to conceive again. Your heart and mind will be “ok” with getting pregnant again, and only you know when you are there. I’m not saying you have it all together, but you know that feeling when you stand up for the first time and feel inside that you are going to make it. Some may have a lot of anxiety or grief to work through, depending on their situation, and others may feel a new pregnancy is just what they need. Being emotionally healed is not a requirement for getting pregnant, but I have seen it so often that a woman feels for herself she is ready and then shortly after becomes pregnant. Although they desperately want a baby, looking back they realize once they get pregnant they are in a much better place and can focus on their new baby. Obviously there are factors involved in determining when you are “ready,” but there is no scientific formula. First, you may not even feel like intercourse after your loss. (Or maybe you are ready but your doctor has not cleared you). Either one gives you time to work through your grief without the pressure that you might conceive or counting the days until you can take a pregnancy test. (which in itself is another emotional roller coaster). I understand that deep longing for a baby, and we know that it would not replace the one you lost, but the hope of a new baby brings you forward to healing. It is completely normal to feel both feelings at the same time; grief and hope. Some people are in a dark place of their grief; a new pregnancy would only cover over those feelings instead of being present in them and working through them. Give yourself time. Don’t put pressure on yourself; peace will come to you, and I promise, you will know when you are ready. Your body may be ready, but your heart may not be in it, and that’s ok! The great news is you are your own expert, and you can trust your heart this time. You will awaken one morning and say “I’m ready.”
For those struggling with how to get there; please find a support group of other women who have experienced loss. If there is not a support group in your area, join an online group or read books. Talk to women about how they got through it. All of these things will move you forward in your journey to healing. I did not have a support group or blogs to read, but I read books and talked with women who had experienced loss. For those who want to immediately try to conceive after miscarriage, I am grateful this research will free couples of having to concentrate on when they can conceive or waiting for that first cycle to come back. Now couples can just “let things happen” whenever they are ready.
What thoughts/memories do you have about when you felt ready to try to conceive after pregnancy loss?