When Is It Safe to Conceive After Stillbirth?

It is a sensitive decision to be discussed with your partner and doctor.

If you experienced a stillbirth, you spent many months expecting to have a baby—and even though you are still grieving that loss, you may desperately want a baby. You 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.

Conceiving After a Stillbirth

There really is no solid medical evidence that suggests you need to wait a specific amount of time before you conceive after a stillbirth.

That being said, 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. Other studies suggest that most women will report fewer psychological after-effects from pregnancy loss within a year. With this knowledge, some experts suggest that a wait-period of six to twelve months is sensible.

Overall, though, deciding on the interval of time to conceive again is really a personal decision, one that requires you (and your partner) to be psychologically and emotionally ready. Also, remember that what is right for one couple might not be right for another.

Common Questions About Pregnancy After Stillbirth

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?
Some stillbirths are never explained, but possible causes include infections, genetic problems in the baby, problems with the placenta (such as placental abruption), or a health condition in the mother (like diabetes, high blood pressure, or autoimmune disease).

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).

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it may be possible for a doctor to counsel a woman on her risk of having another stillbirth if the specific risk factor involved is identified.

For example, in low-risk women who have an unexplained stillbirth, their risk of having another stillbirth is about 0.78 percent to 1.05 percent before 37 weeks gestation. After 37 weeks gestation, the risk of having a stillbirth drops to 0.18 percent. 

The bottom line here is to be sure to get prenatal care from early on in your next pregnancy, even before conceiving, so you and your doctor can understand best how to manage any future pregnancies and discuss any potential risks.

Can I do anything to prevent another stillbirth? Can my doctor?
The only things you can really do to influence your stillbirth risk are to not smoke during pregnancy, avoid alcohol and drug use, 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.

Sources:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (February 2009). ACOG Issues New Guidelines on Managing Stillbirths.

Grunebaum A, Chervenak FA. (2016). Fetal death and stillbirth: Maternal care. In: UpToDate, Lockwood CJ (ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA.

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