It is possible that you will have fears and anxieties at times throughout the pregnancy. At times you may feel you are going crazy. You may be afraid of having the same problem again, or you may now have a heightened awareness of a whole range of other possibilities: miscarriage, stillbirth, SUDI, an accident or sudden illness. And you may be afraid of being happy, or of not being able to love this next baby.
This is quite normal as you have already experienced an overwhelming sorrow, so your sense of security and confidence may well be undermined.
For parents whose first child has died, you may question your ability as parents. You will need support and encouragement to develop your confidence again. It may be helpful to discuss your fears and anxieties with your doctor or midwife, and possibly also with your child health nurse.
Sometimes anxiety can be reduced by changing hospitals, doctors and child care practices, or by having scans and tests that might alert you to possible problems during pregnancy. You could discuss these with your doctor. You may also find it helpful to create a special project for the new baby – paint a mural on the nursery wall, redecorate the cot, change rooms, or other ideas.
Planning a due date
Some parents find it best to try to avoid a subsequent baby being born on or near their dead child’s birthday or the anniversary of his/her death.
“I refused to try in the December … because I didn’t want another child born in September. (Philip’s birthday was the 24th). After that, we tried in earnest.”
“We set ourselves a time limit. We would continue using contraception until early December to avoid having a child born around Eliot’s birthday or the anniversary of his death and to try and avoid having a winter baby. We agreed to stop trying in two years’ time if we had no success because my age would increase pregnancy risks.”
The sex of the baby
“I was obsessed with having another boy. I had even said to people that if the baby was a girl I didn’t know if I would be able to love it. They were horrified that I could even think that way but that was how I felt … I was so glad and relieved when it was a boy.”
“Another girl! We were absolutely ecstatic … both of us deep down wanted another girl.”
“When I was about 18 weeks I went for my scan… I asked what sex the baby would be. The radiologist said ‘Do you really want to know?’ Because of my hesitation she refused to tell me. I went away and cried over a cup of coffee and then decided I did really want to know. The radiologist told me I was to have a girl. Again the tears flowed before I could even thank her, but in hindsight, at least by the time Emily was born I had adjusted to the fact that I was not to have a son.”
“In the midst of our pleasure we only sometimes felt disappointment that our hopes for a girl were not fulfilled.”
“When the results of an amniocentesis came, nothing abnormal was detected and it was girl! I was ecstatic but Ross was devastated – his dreams of playing cricket with two sons were shattered. It was not until that point that I realised that Ross and I had different needs from this pregnancy.”
“I was devastated to learn I was to have another boy, as I thought that it would happen again to my new son but it hasn’t and I’m happy with my little man.”
Pregnancy after a stillbirth or neo-natal death
Many parents have intense thoughts and feelings during their pregnancy following a stillbirth or neo-natal death. If your baby died before or soon after birth you will probably have few memories of your child and you will be grieving for all the hopes, dreams and expectations that you have lost with the death of your child. It is likely that your anxiety may be heightened during the next pregnancy, especially as your baby reaches the gestational milestones of the baby who died. You will have a greater awareness of some of the things that could possibly go wrong. You may feel acutely aware that, although this is not your first child, you may not have the experience of parenting a live child.
It is particularly important that you have trust in the health professionals caring for you since the memories of the care you received after the death of your baby will be vivid. Try to ensure that you find good support and someone to share your thoughts and feelings with.
“I was desperate to get pregnant and when it happened I thought, ‘Now I’ve got this rollercoaster ride again’…It’s a terrifying experience to find out you are pregnant after you’ve had a baby die.”
“I thought, ‘It’s not going to happen, this baby will die soon.’”
“Every time I went to the obstetrician I insisted on an ultrasound to check the baby’s heartbeat. I was convinced the baby was dead. On the other hand, I couldn’t look at the screen to see the heartbeat…When I was in labour, I said to myself, ‘Calm down, don’t get excited. It’s going to be dead!’”
“Through your grief you learn how to parent a baby who has died and you don’t know how to parent a live baby. I became twice as paranoid: I didn’t know what to do.”
“Passing the anniversary of the gestational age that my baby died didn’t make it easier. I felt more insecure. I never really felt safe. Perhaps it’s a bit like passing the first anniversary – you don’t always feel better.”
“I grabbed my obstetrician and said to him, ‘Don’t you let my baby die.’”
“I appreciated the honesty of my doctor when he told me that he couldn’t guarantee outcomes.”
“The way staff manage the subsequent pregnancy is very important. I told [my story to] everyone in the hospital and I felt they ignored me a bit because it was too hard.”
This article was prepared using extracts from Another Baby? The Decision is Yours.1 The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.
Last reviewed: 7/2/23
1. Bereaved Parents & SIDS and Kids Victoria. (2003). Another Baby? The Decision is Yours: A Booklet for Parents Whose baby or Young Child has Died and are Considering having Another Child. Malvern, Vic.: SIDS and Kids.