Lily Allen recently described the two pregnancies that followed her miscarriage as “terrifying”, admitting that she found comfort in food and avoided exercise because she didn’t want to take any risks. With an estimated 1 in 5 pregnancies ending in miscarriage it is a familiar scenario to thousands of women who are facing pregnancy after miscarriage.
Dr Lisa Phillips-Leece is a clinical psychologist and author of the book Surviving Miscarriage – In the Arms of An Angel. She is also a mother to 3 and has experienced 4 miscarriages. Dr Phillips-Leece says that for many women miscarriage can be very complex, particularly because of the social silence that surrounds it. “Nobody wants to talk about it,” she says. “Which can make women feel “misunderstood, isolated and unheard.”
Dr Phillips-Leece notes that women preparing for pregnancy after miscarriage can experience a wide range of emotions including grief, guilt and anxiety. Her advice is to “accept the reality of the loss, work through the pain of the grief rather than suppressing it.”
In terms of moving forward with another pregnancy, Dr Phillips-Leece suggests finding a supportive midwife, obstetrician or GP to talk things through with. “Have regular scans and check-ups all throughout the pregnancy especially in the time up til the last pregnancy was lost,” she advises.
This is a strategy that worked well for Melissa Powell who lost her first pregnancy at thirteen weeks. Second time round, Powell says that she found the period of time between week 8 and week thirteen a particularly stressful part of her pregnancy.
“I probably visited my OB 4 times over that month, instead of the usual 1 monthly visit. I just needed that visual confirmation that everything was ok,” she says.
Powell’s anxiety didn’t improve much after the thirteen-week mark. “I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy because I was so scared that it would go wrong again,” she explains.
Although Powell’s fears are completely understandable, in most cases having a miscarriage is not indicative of a problem, and doesn’t make subsequent pregnancies more risky.
“If a woman is under thirty five and has one miscarriage, and is otherwise healthy and well, she is not at any increased risk in later pregnancies,” says associate professor Steve Robson, vice president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
“In general, if a miscarriage is uncomplicated, as the great majority are, there are no lingering problems.”
However, in some cases there may be an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed. “Make sure you express your concerns to your doctor. If there is any suspicion of underlying problems, see a specialist,” advices Dr Roberts.
Kira Duff suffers from severe endometriosis and has experienced two “devastating” miscarriages. She is now pregnant again and is starting to feel more positive. “When we made it to twelve weeks, I was amazed. When we got to sixteen weeks I started to relax a little and now at twenty weeks I'm feeling less anxious.”
Duff says that although she has “moments” of enjoying pregnancy, overall it has not been an enjoyable experience.
“I talked to my GP and Obstetrician and they told me it was normal with our experience and to not let it cloud out the good feelings. I worry about everything at the best of times so my husband is very good at heading off the worst moments.”
Although she has been cautious, Duff is starting to get used to the idea of bringing her baby home.
“I am now starting to let myself buy stuff for the baby and make plans for when we bring him or her home,” she says. “It just feels right.”