When Is The Best Time To Try To Conceive After Loss?

My baby son Hugo died last year. We will always love Hugo, we will always miss him. He can never be replaced, but my partner and I would dearly love another baby, one we can take home. A question that has been troubling us is when the best time to start trying to conceive might be?

Put simply, there is no right time.

When I fell pregnant with Hugo I was full of joy, excitement, and a bit of anxiety – we both were – all pretty normal emotions. We were so looking forward to the arrival of our baby. However, at just 24 weeks I nearly died as a result of getting the rare pregnancy complications HELLP syndrome and pre-eclampsia. Hugo had to be born 16 weeks prematurely. He was growth restricted, weighing just 420 grams, and he died in my arms 35 days later.

That means if – when – I fall pregnant again I will be super high risk. I am especially high risk not only because I had the hat-trick of HELLP syndrome, pre-eclampsia, and intra-uterine growth restriction, but also because they struck me so severely, so quickly, and so early in pregnancy.

Me and Hugo

Me and Hugo

A frustrating thing about each of those three conditions is that we know what they are, and we know what the symptoms are. We sort of know what causes them (in very simple terms problems with the placenta, and the blood vessels force things back to the mother, which then causes her problems), but we don’t understand why it happens. If we don’t understand why something happens, we can’t prevent, or cure it (the only cure is for the baby to be born, which isn’t so bad if the mother is close to term, but catastrophic when it is so premature). We can only monitor.

And hope.

Pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome are relatively rare conditions. They most commonly appear later in pregnancy, and cases like mine are very rare. That means it is difficult for doctors to give a figure for the likelihood of it happening again. Doctors have given us different numbers which are educated guesses. Not to sound flippant for something so serious, but any figures we are given are about as meaningful as saying the chance of recurrence is eleventy-seven purple dinosaurs.

I might get to term without any complications. HELLP syndrome may appear again, but later in pregnancy and less severe. Or, it might appear as early as it did before.

No one can know.

Me at 20 weeks pregnant with Hugo.

Me at 20 weeks pregnant with Hugo.

Not knowing exactly what causes HELLP syndrome means it is impossible to do or not do anything to alter my chances of avoiding it in another pregnancy. There is no cause and effect, no ‘if this then that’. It is important for me to be as healthy as I can, physically, just as it is for anyone but there is no direct link, like there is with something like lung cancer and smoking.

One reassurance is I will have so many additional tests. Additional scans (including Doppler scans, which track the blood flow to and from the placenta) and blood tests will be able to track at an early stage whether things are starting to go awry. The difficulty with that, however, is there isn’t an awful lot they can do if things do start to go awry. I could only be monitored, and managed up to a point that is safe for me and the baby.

That means I am likely to be incredibly stressed and anxious prior to each appointment. I will probably have to have a bag packed at an early stage, and take it with me each time I go to the hospital in case I need to be admitted.

The stress isn’t helpful, of course. Increased stress leads to increased blood pressure, which is bad for me. Increased stress leads to an increase in the levels of a hormone called cortisol, which is bad for the baby.

So, I shall have to work on relaxation, meditation, positive thoughts. I will need all the support I can get to get me through that pregnancy. No additional stresses (as far as life can ever be controlled).

There is also the consideration that my pregnancy would not just be about me, but about the impact it may have on so many others, too. While the additional checks will reduce the chance of another pregnancy killing me, my other half, my family and friends will all be worried for me. My other half was just as devastated as I was when Hugo died. My family and friends were greatly upset, too.

Mummy, Daddy, Hugo.

Mummy, Daddy, Hugo.

Having my first pregnancy go so disastrously wrong does not give me protection from any other issues in another pregnancy, giving me more things to worry about. Miscarriage, stillbirth, other problems that mean the baby is unable to survive.

If another baby is born prematurely, we will have to go through the stress of neonatal care again, with an uncertain outcome.

One hope I hold on to is that another pregnancy without complications is possible. Another mum got in touch through my blog to say she had HELLP at 25 weeks and her baby also sadly died. Happily, she had another baby near term, with no complications.

It boils down to a couple of questions:

If I try and it goes wrong again, could I cope with losing another baby? I don’t know.

If I don’t try again, could I cope with never knowing whether I was able to take a baby home?

No.

With my history, another pregnancy will always be terrifying. I have to accept that there is no right time.

Anything can happen to anyone at any time, of course. The dilemma for us is that we know too much about things now. For all my talk about the value of information, I can see there are times when ignorance really is bliss.

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30 thoughts on “When Is The Best Time To Try To Conceive After Loss?

  1. Maya says:

    I don’t think this is a matter of too much information but the result of tragic first hand experience. This isn’t theory for you, you’ve walked a very very painful path and I think it takes a lot of courage to walk it again, even intellectually knowing you’ll be monitored carefully.

    I had HELLP with my son but it was at 37 weeks. We were sent to the ER and had an emergency c-section and it all turned out well. So when we made the decision to have my daughter, even though I had HELLP, it still was more theoretical for me. My fears were in the “what if” realm and not anywhere near what pregnancy after loss folks experience. For you, for my late Aunt who lost her firstborn in a stillbirth, and others, this is “What is”. You all have experienced the most devastating outcome of a pregnancy.

    When I was pregnant with my daughter they monitored me closely. I did spill protein again in the last trimester just as I did with my son. My daughter wasn’t breech the way he was, so that was good because I really wanted a vaginal birth. They were monitoring the protein and I was going in a lot and there were a lot of ultrasounds. This was 13 years ago so I don’t remember the frequency. I don’t know if I would have developed pre-eclampsia again or even HELLP because my water broke at 37 weeks and I had to be induced which they also monitored carefully because of the previous c-section. Again, I was so so so fortunate and it all worked out.

    I wish you all the best and my thoughts are with you.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. HELLP is so rare, it is good to connect with other survivors and find out about their experiences. I hope I am fortunate and that it works out for me, too xxx

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  2. joyandpops says:

    Not an easy decision at all.
    It was five years before I had another baby after my son died (not intentionally but simply the length of time it took to meet my husband after my father’s son left me).
    I thought five years would make the fear more manageable – looking back I’m not sure it made any difference. I spent 38 weeks in turmoil. I was signed off work and then left due to being unable to function in the day to day world. I realise that sounds really negative but the honest truth is that it is an extremely stressful time. I wish I had known that SANDS had a ‘pregnancy after loss’ group – I think that would have helped enormously.
    I never found out why my son was stillborn at 41 weeks, though when pregnant with my 2nd baby a consultant reading my previous notes suggested that is could have been an error at the dating stage – that perhaps I was considerably over, perhaps as much as 44+ weeks and that the placenta had failed. This tallies with something the midwives at Louis’s delivery said at the time.
    For reassurance I was given scans every month until 6 months and then every 2/3 weeks up to delivery. I opted for a c-section as I knew labour would be too traumatic (those memories have never faded) – I wanted my baby out when I knew she was alive.
    My advice, is take a deep breath, do what you need to in order to get through and lean on those who will support you. Take every scan your offered (and ignore those damn bounty women in the scan waiting room who should be banned), be firm with any consultant who tries to give you less than you need.
    I am so lucky to have the family I have today but it took a lot of strength to get here.
    Best of luck, you’re in my thoughts.
    Xx
    #brilliantblogposts

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      It doesn’t sound negative at all – I think it’s an honest reflection of what it must be like. I’m so sorry to hear there could have been a dating error with Louis. I gasped when I read that – I really feel for you. Thank you so much for your advice and kind words. Love to you xxx

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  3. Rachel Bustin (@RachelBustin) says:

    A lovely post. I am so sorry for your loss. It is hard deciding when to try again. We are in a situation at the moment of also deciding when to try. I have suffered 3 miscarriages in the last 18 months and it is heartbreaking. The most recent being Valentines day when I was admitted due to haemorrhaging. I have had every test possible and nothing is wrong with me at all just bad luck I keep being told. It doesn’t make it any easier, when you want something so much. Good luck with whenever you decide xx

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I’m so sorry for your losses. It’s so frustrating to not have a cause, a reason to blame isn’t it? It really doesn’t make things any easier at all. Thank you for your kind comment. Sending love and luck to you too xxx

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  4. Kaye says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, I thank my lucky stars every day that I have Archie. My heart goes out to anyone that’s lost a child at any point and I can only imagine that there is no right time, it’s whatever the parents feel comfortable with.

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  5. blopmamma2014 says:

    I can only imagine how frightening the prospect of becoming pregnant again must be and I hope you know how brave you are for not only thinking about it but also writing about it.

    As a neonatal nurse I have cared for hundreds of babies born prematurely and I know more than a few families who have gone on to have a subsequent pregnancy where they have carried the baby to term with minimal problems.

    Clearly you and Martin need to wait until you feel ‘ready’ (whenever that is) to try again but know that another pregnancy is possible.

    If you ever want to talk you know where I am and if you ever want to ask me or my husband any medical or pregnancy related questions then please do.

    Much Love to you both and it would be so wonderful to hear some good news 🙂

    Like

  6. Mummy Tries says:

    All I’d say is make sure you’re in the absolute best physical and mental condition possible lovely lady. Eat well, do pregnancy yoga, meditate, avoid stress like it was a contagious disease. I am absolutely convinced it would put you in good stead for pregnancy. Sending you so much love and happy thoughts. I’d be thrilled for you to hear about a little poppy seed very soon xxx

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  7. Ghostwritermummy says:

    I don’t think there is ever a right time and fur you especially it is always going to be a huge decision. Abs yes the pregnancy would be stressful but you hav to hang on to the fact that the next time could very well be ok. It’s a leap you need to decide if you are ready to take, and when u do we will all be here for you x x x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. babylossmama says:

    Amen. Although I had a chronic placental abruption and not your trifecta, the situation we face issimilar: it could happen again; chances are much greater that they would compared to the first time around; I would get a lot of monitoring, but as you note, even if they do detect a problem there isn’t anything they could do. Like you, my condition struck very early in my pregnancy, which is quite rare (usually placental abruptions happen in the third trimester, most often during labor). But like you, if I didn’t try again, I would be haunted by that greatest “what if” my entire life.

    Really, the best time to try and conceive after loss is (1) when your medical team says you are ready physically; and (2) when you and your partner feel ready emotionally for the battle ahead. And those are both unique to every couple.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      We really do share so many similarities but for different reasons. You’re right about those points, and they’re unique to every couple. I guess there will be a time when you just ‘know’ you as prepared as you can ever be. Love to you xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  9. rainbowmam says:

    A pregnancy after a loss is always going to be a step into the scary dark and unknown. But it is worth it. I know how easy it is for me to say this, the ‘other’ side of a rainbow pregnancy and baby, but I will never, ever forget how scared and paranoid I was throughout the pregnancy. And as you say, it isn’t just knowing what went wrong with your pregnancy, it’s the fact you know so many other different ways that it can go wrong. Ignorance is definitely bliss in some ways! But you have to remember how rare what has happened to you is. How babyloss is still so taboo, because it does only happen to a relatively small number of people.

    While our situation is slightly different to yours (I didn’t have HELLP or pre-eclampsia, but I did have high BP and the Eldest had severe IUGR), the thinking behind another pregnancy was similar. We knew we were at a significantly increased risk of all happening again, and I was scared of whether I could face going through another loss.

    However, we had already had ‘that’ pregnancy. Our problems were identified so early on (14/15 weeks) and we were on regular monitoring scans from 20 weeks (weekly, then twice weekly, then daily) and I was hospitalised for the last four weeks, so I knew I could live with the uncertainty. We had already gone through the ‘we don’t know what the day will bring….” pregnancy. In fact I don’t know of how pregnancy can be any other way.

    We knew what the medical ‘plan of action’ was going to be (Aspirin and Clexane injections) from conception. We also knew we would be back under the care of the Fetal Med team, who had looked after us so magnificently with the Eldest. When weighing all of this up, we felt we would have the best level of support we could hope for, and that helped us with our ‘leap in the dark’.

    I also feel that the fact we had to wait (we had strong medical advice about waiting a certain amount of time before we could start trying again) really helped me make sure I was in the best physical and emotional state before we could even begin to try.

    Was it easy? No, and we had two very early miscarriages to deal with before we got pregnant with the Rainbow. Was it worth it? Yes, a million times, yes.

    In terms of practical advice of how you cope with the emotional stress of another pregnancy….here are my thoughts. We had support from a next pregnancy group run by our local Sands group. If you don’t have one locally, you know that there are lots of us ‘in the computer’ that will be here to hold your hand and who have been there. (We are here regardless of whether there is any support locally). Make sure you know what the plan of action will be with a next pregnancy, and that you are happy with it. (Our Consultant basically told us to tell them what we felt we would need to help us through the pregnancy). Things do get easier as the pregnancy progresses and you hit certain milestones (you won’t always be taking a bag to the scans). Take it easy! Do as little or as much as you feel able to, but put you and the baby first, everything else is secondary.

    As with everything, you will know if, and when, you want to do this. For us, we tried to make it a rational decision, but it ended up being an emotional one. Sending you love, light and hugs xxxx

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you, lovely. There is so much to think about – and so much that is not fully understood – it was good for me to write it all down. An added bonus is the kind comments fellow baby loss mamas have taken the time to write, and it is so reassuring to know that while another pregnancy would be really tough and scary, it is possible. I am grateful for all the support xxx

      Like

  10. Saranga (@SarangaComics) says:

    Deciding when to try again is so, so hard, irregardless of the reason you lost your child. Then pregnancy after loss is really, really hard. There is no right time to try again, and there is no guarantee this baby will live. On the other hand, there is no guarantee the baby will die, either.
    The extra checks and monitoring do help though (at least they help me). And having a good support network helps, whether that is friends or family. We started pretty soon after we lost our son, and it was right for us, and so far everything is fine. But we had no known cause so are a million miles away from your story and have our own different barrage of fears and feelings.
    One thing that has helped me is the mantra ‘this is a different pregnancy, a different baby, a different story, with a different ending’.
    I am so sorry for the loss of Hugo.

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      I love that mantra – thank you. Because the worst has happened, I have been focusing on the worst – but I need to remember the outcome could be positive, too. Different pregnancy, different baby, different story, different ending will be in my mind. Best wishes to you for the rest of your pregnancy, and a safe arrival of your little one xxx

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  11. Joelle says:

    Hi Leigh,
    I feel for you so much, as you know I was in a very similar position to you a few years ago (I think I may be the Mum you mentioned!) and it is such a hard decision to make.
    But for what it’s worth I think you are doing all the right things, getting as fit as you can and making sure you have a thorough understanding of HELLP and pre-clampsia. I did and still do firmly believe that knowledge is power and being able to be your own advocate for the best health provision possible is our best weapon against this horrible disease, I wasn’t (and I’m sure you wont be either) afraid to shout for better/different/more care the second time round, although I did have a fantastic consultant so I was lucky and didn’t have to shout too loud ;).
    Relaxation was a big thing with me too and I did find a relaxation pregnancy cd that helped me immensely (I think it can be found at http://www.natalhynotherapy.co.uk) when I found it all a bit much.
    Lastly, as you have so eloquently put, there are no guarantees and really statistics mean nothing especially when you’ve come up against the very worst of them but hope truly is a powerful thing and it can get you through a lot and as you know I have my happy, cheeky, little Louis to testify to this 🙂
    Please feel to DM me if you ever have any questions or just want a chat (I also run a SANDS Pregnancy After Loss group in my local area and there may be one in yours too.)
    xxx

    Like

    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Hi Joelle, you are indeed the mum I mentioned. I cried when you left that comment because it was the first piece of good news, hope, that I had received since Hugo died. I am clinging with everything I have on to the knowledge that you have your gorgeous little boy, and were brave enough to get through the pregnancy to have him. Thank you so much for your kindness, advice, and offer to DM you – when the time is right, I have little doubt I shall be taking you up on it xxx

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  12. bridgeanneartandwriting says:

    Actually, hope it is Ok I have said I will pray for you. I realise that some people would feel that was thrusting religion in their face, and that’s not what I want to convey at all – I will be thinking of you and hoping you will be OK – and because I personally believe in God I will be doing that in the form of asking God – I hope that is OK.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Thank you for your really kind comments. It’s perfectly ok to say you’ll pray for me – it’s not thrusting religion in my face at all, it’s about you caring for me and sending positivity my way, and for that I am immensely grateful xxx

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  13. bridgeanneartandwriting says:

    I am going to pray for you – it’s so hard and I so hope that everything will be well and that you will feel blessed and happy, though I know you will never ‘get over’ Hugo, and nor will you want to. I wish you all the best, and that you and your husband will feel the presence of Love and Hope in your life during this terribly difficult time.

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