After the loss of a pregnancy, many couples are told to wait before trying to conceive again.
The American Pregnancy Association advises a period of at least two to three months in order for “the uterus to recover and the endometrial lining to become strong and healthy again.” Some doctors will recommend an even longer wait, anywhere from six months to a year, in order to make sure the mother is healthy enough to carry a pregnancy to term.
One study is challenging that advice for healthy women in developed countries. Published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the study found that women who begin attempting to conceive within three months after a miscarriage may have a greater likelihood of becoming pregnant and carrying the pregnancy to a live birth than those who wait longer. (Women who lost a pregnancy related to poorly controlled diabetes or a uterine problem, however, should talk to their daughter before trying to conceive again.)
The study looked at 1,083 women between the ages of 18 and 40 who had a miscarriage by or before 20 weeks of gestation. The women were part of a larger study that took place from 2007 to 2011. None of them had experienced pregnancy loss due to complications such as an ectopic (or tubal) pregnancy or the growth of abnormal fetal tissue known as a molar pregnancy. The women in the study were followed for up to six menstrual cycles, and if they became pregnant in that time they were followed until the birth.
Within this group, the study found, more than 76 percent of women attempted to conceive again within three months of losing a pregnancy. When this group was compared to those who waited more than three months to try to conceive again, researchers found that 69 percent of them became pregnant within the study’s timeline, versus 51 percent of those who waited longer.
They were also more likely to have a live birth; only 36 percent of women who waited longer to try again had pregnancies continue to a live birth, versus 53 percent of those who began trying to conceive within three months. The two groups showed no differences in pregnancy complications.
The study’s authors acknowledge that there are some limitations to their research; since women self-reported when they began trying to conceive again, the dates may not be completely accurate. Still, “recommendations to delay pregnancy attempts for at least 3 - 6 months among couples who are psychologically ready to begin trying may be unwarranted and should be revisited,” they advise. “Our study supports the hypothesis that there is no physiologic evidence for delaying pregnancy attempt after an early loss.”
However, their caveat that there is no reason to wait more than three months for “couples who are psychologically ready” is important. While your body may be ready physically to conceive again, you also need to be ready emotionally to begin trying once more.
Women and couples react differently to pregnancy loss, some feeling ready to try for another baby right away and others needing substantially more time to grieve. The study’s authors point out that “previous research has found that a speedy new pregnancy and birth of a living child lessens grief among couples who are suffering from a pregnancy loss,” but that may not be true for you, or you may find that you are very worried about something going wrong with your next pregnancy.
To make sure you are both physically and emotionally ready to conceive again, talk to your doctor and your partner. If necessary, you can always seek support for pregnancy loss recovery from a community organization or mental health professional.
July 18, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN