Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

​Experiences of a following pregnancy

Many parents we spoke to had been able to have another baby after their loss. They felt very lucky, but often those pregnancies were difficult. 

Naivety of pregnancy shattered

Pregnancy was never the same again. Many parents felt they had lost the carefree attitude and joy they had felt about pregnancy before it had been shattered. After losing a baby, they now knew everything that might go wrong and found the next pregnancy terrifying. Some parents talked about how differently they approached the pregnancy. Some hid their news, and didn’t feel it was right to announce it through social media or to friends and family. Carly talked about how she avoided buying new things for the baby. She felt that “half of me wanted to say 'ah hurray, I'm pregnant', and be happy and then the other half was going 'well don't get your hopes up again… you know what happens”.
Some parents found support groups with other parents who had experienced loss were helpful. For Courtney, friends at Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity (Resources) were the only ones who understood her changed attitude towards pregnancy. Alison was reassured to be in touch with parents who had gone on to have a healthy baby. But others found meeting people who had also lost their baby made their fear greater. Vikki became aware of even more things that could go wrong during the pregnancy which made her extremely scared.
The parents we spoke to felt extreme anxiety during their pregnancy. Carly found her pregnancy “off the scale scary. Every day I thought 'she's going to die too'”. Elaine felt “it was like literally like living in a bubble, because I was afraid to do anything.” Some parents felt safer once they had got past 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy as this was when they had lost their baby previously. Others felt more anxious from that stage onwards. Some parents described never feeling safe throughout the whole pregnancy.
Parents particularly appreciated midwives and doctors who understood their anxiety, especially around whether their baby was moving or not. Many talked about trying to manage their anxiety by seeing their midwife or attending hospital much more frequently than they had previously. Mothers often received extra scans to monitor their pregnancy but while they could allay their fears they were also stressful. For Vikki they were torture – as it had been during a routine scan in her first pregnancy that revealed her baby had died. Many mothers had their pregnancy induced or a caesarean section a few weeks earlier than normal to relieve stress and reduce the chance of stillbirth.
Partners’ feelings

Fathers also found subsequent pregnancies extremely stressful. Matthew said he worried “because… I couldn't see a positive outcome for it. I just felt it was going to end in the same way. It was going to end badly.”
Going back to the same hospital

Parents had mixed feelings about going back to the hospital where they had given birth the first time. For some parents this offered continuity of care with the same midwife or doctor who knew about their previous experience. Parents appreciated when staff knew about their loss so that they didn’t have to keep retelling their story. Physically returning to the same hospital was often difficult as it was associated with so many distressing memories. Some mothers talked about having flashbacks or feeling physically sick or fainting.
Feelings after the birth

Giving birth allowed some parents to lay down happier memories associated with birth. Elaine described how the birth of her son “leaves a nice feeling around” birth and labour rather than a “traumatic” one. However some were disappointed when friends or family thought their new baby would ease their grief. Lindsay was upset when “lots of people, friends and family, are a bit like - excellent, so you've got your happy ending now, and everything's perfect” because “that grief doesn't disappear because I am now pregnant again.”
For some parents anxiety did not stop after giving birth and they felt a heightened level of stress for the first months after their new baby was born. Kirsty was “anxious that I was doing the right thing all of the time… I just felt that I wasn’t going to have him for very long”. Alison felt her anxiety after birth impacted on the first few months of her new daughter’s life.


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