Pregnancy After Miscarriage
I was feeling funny and my period was late, but I chalked it all up to the miscarriage I'd had just eight weeks before. It had been my second lost pregnancy in less than a year, and I knew that it could take a while for my menstrual cycle to become regular again.
Nevertheless, I did a home pregnancy test. But I was so sure the results would be negative -- my husband and I had made love only once since this last miscarriage -- that, after a phone call interrupted the waiting period, I actually forgot to check it. When I did, and I saw the bright pink plus sign indicating that I was pregnant, I must have stared at it for a full minute.
As joyful as I was about this third chance at becoming a mother, I was also terrified. I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle another loss.
Although the pregnancy proceeded normally, I teetered between two extremes throughout it: On one hand, I tried to avoid imagining what my baby would look like or what I'd name her, for fear I might miscarry again. On the other, I was keenly attuned to each little symptom: I welcomed the nausea, fatigue, and tender breasts as signs that my baby continued to live within me. And I circled two dates on the calendar: the day she was due, and the day I estimated she'd have a chance to survive outside the womb if she was born prematurely.
When Addie arrived full-term and healthy, I thought I'd finally heave a sigh of relief. But it took several more weeks for me to accept that she'd made it, safe and sound, and almost a full year passed before I stopped worrying that she could die at any moment.
Common Occurrence, Unique Heartache
As many as 10 to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage -- defined as a pregnancy lost before 20 weeks. (After that it is considered a stillbirth.) Most losses are due to abnormalities in the fetus. Other reasons include anatomic problems in the woman, such as an abnormally shaped uterus, a hormonal imbalance, or an infection of the genital tract. Yet many miscarriages are followed by successful births -- the chance of having a baby is generally greater than 50 percent, even after several miscarriages.
Even if you're aware that miscarriages are common, this knowledge may do little to assuage the grief, depression, sense of failure, and anxiety about subsequent pregnancies that can be triggered afterward. For some couples, going on to have a successful pregnancy can help resolve these feelings; for others, the loss is mourned forever.
"Miscarriage robs pregnancy of its innocence," says Gerri Wismer, R.N.,the perinatal bereavement coordinator at Lankenau Hospital, in Wynnewood, PA. Whether it was a first pregnancy or a third, a miscarriage often means never again taking for granted that a pregnancy will lead to a baby.
That sense of lost innocence has spiked sharply with the introduction of home pregnancy tests. Because they allow you to discover whether you're pregnant at a very early stage, they also make you aware of an early miscarriage. "25 years ago, the technology simply didn't exist for women to find out early on whether or not they were pregnant unless they went to a doctor," says Ron Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., a miscarriage expert at Reproductive Associates of Delaware in Wilmington. "As a result, what many assumed was simply a heavy period may in fact have been a pregnancy loss."