I recently suffered a stillbirth and I want to try again right away but I am not sure when it's okay to get pregnant. Is it riskier to get pregnant soon after a stillbirth? --About.com reader
A strong desire to get pregnant again is common in couples who experience any type of pregnancy loss. When you have a stillbirth, you spent many months expecting to have a baby -- and even though you are still grieving the loss, you may still desperately want a baby and might feel that a new pregnancy is the only way you will be able to move on from what happened. Others feel differently and want to take much more time before trying again -- any reaction is okay.
As for what amount of time after a stillbirth is safe, here is some information from UpToDate, an online reference used by doctors and patients:
"There are no data from large studies on the optimum interpregnancy interval after stillbirth. Observational series suggest that women are more vulnerable to post traumatic stress in the pregnancy subsequent to stillbirth when conception occurs soon after the loss and that mothers who bear their next baby around the anniversary of their first baby's death are particularly vulnerable. Others have shown that most women recover psychologically by 12 months after a pregnancy loss. Thus, it is reasonable to advise patients to delay conception until they feel they have achieved psychological closure of the previous pregnancy loss and that this typically takes at least six months to one year."
So what that means is that there's really no consensus among doctors and no evidence that you need to wait a specific amount of time for medical reasons before you conceive after stillbirth. Some studies suggest that a pregnancy with a due date around the anniversary of your stillbirth might increase the risk of high levels of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, but that most women will report fewer psychological after-effects from pregnancy loss within a year.
It is worth considering waiting to try again until you are sure that you are emotionally ready. Still, everyone is different, and what is right for one person might not be right for another -- and only you and your partner can decide when you are really ready.
If you're not sure what to do, you're not alone. It's normal if you have mixed feelings about the idea of another pregnancy, and you and your partner should take your time. Don't rush it, and don't feel pressured to try again too soon if that's not what you want. In the meantime, here are some other common questions people have about getting pregnant after a stillbirth.
Why did I have a stillbirth in the first place?
The majority of stillbirths are never explained, but possible causes might include infections, genetic problems in the baby, or problems with the placenta (such as placental abruption).
What's the risk of having another stillbirth?
Most of the problems connected to stillbirth don't recur in future pregnancies, but some studies have shown that couples who have had one stillbirth are at higher risk of having another one (though most often, the next pregnancy will be fine). Get prenatal care from early on in your next pregnancy -- your doctor might decide to monitor your next pregnancy more closely to keep tabs on the baby's growth from the beginning.
Can I do anything to prevent another stillbirth? Can my doctor?
The only things you can really do to affect your stillbirth risk are to not smoke during pregnancy, don't drink alcohol during pregnancy, get regular prenatal care, and follow general recommendations for how to have a healthy pregnancy. (You probably already know that.) Doctors can sometimes take action to prevent stillbirths in women considered to have higher than average risk, which is why regular prenatal care is important, but stillbirths aren't always preventable. It's sad but true that we don't always have control over bad things that happen in our lives, and most of the time, miscarriages and stillbirths aren't anyone's fault.
Want to learn more? See UpToDate's topic, "Counseling parents after stillbirth," for additional in-depth medical information.
Grunebaum, Amos, and Frank A Chervenak. "Counseling parents after stillbirth." UpToDate. Accessed: Mar 2010.