In the U.S., an estimated 15 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. While most women who have a miscarriage will later experience healthy pregnancies, the emotional experience of pregnancy after miscarriage has largely been unaddressed.
Lindsay Henke, a writer and clinical social worker, lost her first daughter, Nora, to stillbirth. This loss affected Henke in her next pregnancy. “You’re constantly walking a tightrope,” Henke said of the experience. In the pregnancy following the loss, Henke did not want to go to birthing classes or prenatal yoga, unable to answer the inevitable question of whether she was a first-time mom.
“Now you’re telling people, ‘Yeah, I’ve been pregnant before’ … and it brings up so much stuff when you just want to go do yoga,” Henke said. “So you feel maybe a bit ostracized from that community. [But] within the bereavement community, it’s a little raw to talk about a pregnancy when other people have just experienced loss.”
Henke took to Google to find resources of support, but only found information about losing weight after pregnancy. The lack of resources led Henke to co-found Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) in 2014 with the goal of providing emotional support to women who are pregnant after a miscarriage.
Studies have shown that past pregnancy loss impacts the mental health of women in subsequent pregnancies. Pregnancy loss has been linked to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder in later pregnancies.
The need for resources such as PALS has been well-documented.
Kate Kripke, a clinical social worker and founder of the Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder, explained, “My experience is that a woman who has an opportunity to work through the grief that can come with a loss before becoming pregnant again is going to have a very different experience during pregnancy than a woman who hasn’t.”
Kripke emphasizes that it is never too late for women to get support and advocates for more spaces for women to express their feelings such as support groups or working with mental health professionals.