If you’re trying for a baby, having a miscarriage can be understandably heartbreaking. However, it can be reassuring to know that most women go on to have a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage. Less than 5% of women will have two consecutive miscarriages, while only 1% will have three or more consecutive miscarriages. But how soon can you start trying again, and what does pregnancy after miscarriage feel like? We put our questions to Dr. Allison Rodgers, obstetrician and gynecologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, US, and spoke to two women to hear their stories.
Pregnancy after miscarriage: What can you expect?
The thought of getting pregnant right after a miscarriage can be overwhelming, and you should never feel pressured to rush if you’re not feeling ready. If you do decide to try for another baby quite soon after a miscarriage, and you get pregnant, then you may start experiencing pregnancy symptoms — like nausea, fatigue, or tender breasts — while your mind is still adjusting to the loss of the previous pregnancy. “It’s important to realize the emotional toll a miscarriage can have on how you feel in a subsequent pregnancy,” says Dr. Rodgers.
It’s also natural to feel worried about your upcoming baby. Feeling anxious about pregnancy after miscarriage is perfectly understandable. “Many people will not feel a sense of relief until their baby is in their arms,” says Dr. Rodgers. “Remember that once we see a heartbeat [at your first ultrasound scan, between weeks six and 12 of your pregnancy, the chances of miscarriage drop to less than 5%. So each week and milestone that goes by, your chances of another loss drop.”
Unfortunately, miscarriage can be fairly common, so you can take some small comfort in knowing that you are not alone in how you’re feeling. Around one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage, while more than 80% of miscarriages will occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, after that, the rate of miscarriage decreases rapidly, so try to put your mind at ease as best you can once you reach the second trimester. The probability of a pregnancy ending in miscarriage is 25% at four weeks, 5% at eight weeks, 1.7% at 12 weeks, and just 0.5% at 16 weeks.
If you’re experiencing anxiety about your pregnancy after miscarriage, this might impact how quickly you decide to tell your friends and family the news. “The timing of when to announce a pregnancy is different for everyone,” says Dr. Rodgers. “After my loss, I waited until after my second trimester had confirmed a healthy baby. You will know when you are comfortable.”
As Dr. Rodgers points out, “There is no right or wrong time.”
How soon can you get pregnant after a miscarriage?
Many people feel they need some space to grieve before considering conceiving after miscarriage. Others might take comfort from starting to try again. Either is natural, so it’s whatever feels right for you. But from a physical health perspective, how soon is too soon to get pregnant after a miscarriage?
“You can start trying to get pregnant with your next menstrual cycle after a miscarriage,” says Dr. Rodgers. “If you are following your hCG levels, the hormone that tracks pregnancy, you should wait until your hCG is all the way to zero to start trying again [you can track your hCG levels by taking a regular at-home pregnancy test]. This typically takes six weeks. The adage of waiting three months is just not medically accurate.”
When is the best time to get pregnant after a miscarriage?
This will all depend on how you’re feeling. “The best time is as soon as you feel emotionally and physically ready,” says Dr. Rodgers. With that in mind, try not to compare your path with others’ or to take any steps because you think that’s what you should be doing.
What are the chances of having another miscarriage?
Remember, most people will go on to have a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage. As we’ve seen, less than 5% of women will have two consecutive miscarriages, while only 1% will have three or more consecutive miscarriages. Try to remember these facts if you find that your anxious thoughts are running away with you.
One factor that can influence the likelihood of having another miscarriage is your age. “The older you are, the higher your chance of another loss,” explains Dr. Rodgers. That’s because an embryo is more likely to have abnormalities with its chromosomes in older parents, which can reduce its chance of implanting and surviving pregnancy. However, rest assured that many people over 40 go on to conceive and deliver a healthy baby. Recent data showed that the birth rate for women aged 40–44 rose by around 3% each year between 1985 and 2019, before rising by a further 2% in 2021 compared to 2020.
Do the signs of pregnancy after miscarriage differ?
Some people think the signs of pregnancy might be stronger after miscarriage, but this isn’t necessarily the case. “Each pregnancy can have different symptoms,” explains Dr. Rodgers. “While some symptoms like nausea are good signs that a pregnancy is progressing, not all healthy pregnancies have symptoms.” So if you find that you aren’t experiencing any pregnancy symptoms, try not to panic. Remember that you can always book an appointment with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Should you get some additional tests before trying to conceive after miscarriage?
There are some tests that you can do yourself after having a miscarriage, but in other instances, you’d need see a doctor. “I would recommend taking a [pregnancy] test to make sure your hCG is down to zero,” says Dr. Rodgers. “If you aren’t getting your period within a month after your loss, you should see your doctor. You can always do a urine home pregnancy test to make sure it’s negative first. If you had a big blood loss, your doctor could check your blood count to make sure you are not anemic. And if you have more than one miscarriage, you certainly should get evaluated by a medical provider like a reproductive endocrinologist for recurrent pregnancy loss.” This is because they’ll be able to help look into what might be causing the miscarriages.
There are a number of tests that your doctor can do if you’ve had more than one miscarriage. “Typically, they would involve looking at the karyotypes for both partners [a test for chromosomal abnormalities], the shape of the uterus [to test for things like polyps or suspected scar tissue], checking for antibodies that can attack a pregnancy, making sure your hormones like thyroid and prolactin are normal, and making sure you don’t have diabetes,” explains Dr. Rodgers.
Is there anything you can do to improve the chances of pregnancy after miscarriage?
As with trying to conceive under any circumstances, being as healthy as possible is always a good idea. “This means not smoking or using nicotine, and limiting caffeine and alcohol,” says Dr. Rodgers.
But remember, whether or not you go on to have a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage is not something you can control. “It’s important to remember that miscarriage is not your fault,” says Dr. Rodgers. “There is nothing you can do to prevent a miscarriage or cause a miscarriage. In fact, doing genetic testing on embryos after in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the only real way to reduce chances of miscarriages due to chromosomal abnormalities.” So no matter what, know that you are not to blame if you do experience a miscarriage.
Bex, 38, experienced a miscarriage when she was 35, after having had three children. “It just took the bottom out of my world,” she said. “I remember saying to my husband, when I was still in hospital and hadn’t even passed the baby, ‘We can try again, can’t we?’”
As Bex had to have medical and surgical treatment following the miscarriage, she wanted to wait for three cycles before trying again to give her body a chance to recover. The process — from tracking her ovulation to planning the right time to have sex — felt different from how it had felt before. “Miscarriage steals so much from you, because everything is tainted by sadness, even intimacy,” says Bex.
Exactly six months after her baby loss, Bex found out she was pregnant again with her daughter, who is now two. “You’re delighted, but it doesn’t erase the pain that you went through,” she says. “I had this guilt that the baby I lost would somewhere be thinking that I didn’t want it enough, and that I was replacing it.”
Bex found comfort from speaking to women who’d had similar experiences. She decided to set up a baby loss support group on Facebook. It gained 2,100 members overnight — one of whom was Laura.
"We’re never told a narrative of motherhood where it doesn’t work out"
Now 37, Laura had seven miscarriages before giving birth to her son in 2019. “The longer it went on, the more withdrawn I became,” says Laura. “Hope was pretty hard to come by towards the end. I was desperate to be a mom, but it felt like the possibility was slipping away. I grieved for the loss of motherhood more than I grieved for each individual baby.”
After seeing various specialists, Laura eventually found a doctor who gave her answers — and a plan. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which meant her body was attacking each pregnancy. When she next got pregnant, Laura started taking immunosuppressants. And it worked.
As the pregnancy with her son progressed, Laura didn’t let herself believe it was really happening. “I used to talk about ‘if’ the baby arrives, not ‘when,’” she says. “Even as I went in for my cesarean, I could not picture having a [real], crying baby.”
After being in denial for so long, Laura was worried that she’d struggle to bond with her son. “But it was absolutely amazing,” she says. “He was a wonderful baby. And he’s a wonderful toddler. I feel very, very lucky.”
When Bex and Laura met on social media, they decided more needed to be done to support women going through baby loss and pregnancy after miscarriage. They set up The Worst Girl Gang Ever, a podcast, support group, learning platform, and book to help women navigate life after baby loss.
“As girls, we’re never told a narrative of motherhood where it doesn’t work out or that you might not come home with a baby,” says Bex. “So when it happens to us, we completely lose confidence in a world we thought we knew. We want to get it all out in the open.”
Pregnancy after miscarriage: The takeaway
Please remember that if you’re struggling with baby loss, you are not as alone as you might feel. There is no right or wrong way to process the emotional and physical toll that it can take on your mind and body, and only you and your partner can decide on the “right” time to start trying again. If you’re looking for support, organizations such as Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support in the United States and Tommy’s in the United Kingdom can provide further information.
Remember that most people go on to have a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage, so there’s a good reason to stay hopeful. Whatever your chosen next steps, make sure you get the support you deserve.
Written by Kate Hollowood