Fear is the most common reaction to thoughts about conceiving another baby after a stillbirth and lingers even after conception and throughout the pregnancy, no matter how healthy it may be. It doesn’t matter if your stillborn baby was your first, second or third baby. Whether you have other children or not doesn’t necessarily lessen your overwhelming fear at what might happen in another pregnancy with a new baby. There will come a time when you feel you can manage the fear. If you have been advised by your doctor to wait for a certain period of time before conception, it is important to follow their advice. The most important thing to remember is that everyone will feel differently about conceiving another baby. Take your time and be open about how you feel with your partner.
During a subsequent pregnancy, you will naturally feel anxious at times, particularly as you near the gestational age at which your previous baby died. Talk with your partner and your health carers about the best way to manage this pregnancy. You may find that in an effort to make it through this pregnancy, you do things differently to the way you did them in the first pregnancy (e.g. eating different foods, discovering the sex of the baby when you may previously have wanted it to be a surprise, and so on). Alternatively, you may choose to do things exactly the same way.
It is highly likely that you will see more of your healthcare team during this pregnancy than the last. Your obstetrician may choose to have you more closely monitored depending on whether a cause was found for the stillbirth of your last baby, or if you have certain risk factors which may jeopardise this pregnancy (e.g. hypertension, gestational diabetes, etc). It will also be up to you how often you see your healthcare team depending on your own anxiety. It is perfectly fine for you to see them several times a week. It is important to your health and the health of your growing baby that you try to minimise your stress, and your healthcare team should be supportive of this.
A mix of emotions will often surface in addition to your anxiety during subsequent pregnancies. You might feel guilty about being excited at the arrival of this new baby, or conversely you might not feel excited at all about this baby. All of these responses are likely and don’t let them weigh too heavily on you. Rather, try to accept that they are a part of this pregnancy and try to work through the negative feelings.
Some parents of stillborn babies choose to see a counsellor during their subsequent pregnancies which has been of great assistance to them. Sometimes, you may have to seek out more than one or two different counsellors until you find one you’re comfortable talking openly with and who you feel is actually helping you begin to cope with your grief. Don’t lose hope if you have to try a few different people. In the long-run, it is better for your overall well-being that you find the right person to talk to, even if it takes some time, rather than seeing no one at all.
Ultimately, don’t let fear get in the way of looking forward to having another baby. The risk of having a consecutive stillbirth is generally quite low and you should be honest with your doctor about your concerns and what your risks are. Allow yourself to be excited knowing that you will be giving your stillborn baby, and perhaps other living children, a sibling, and that they will one day be able to share with you in remembering and honouring their sibling.