No matter how far along you were at the time, miscarrying a much wanted pregnancy is incredibly difficult. If you underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant, a miscarriage comes at the end of a long journey of medications, doctors’ appointments, expenses, and procedures. It’s important to remember that there’s no need to hold yourself to a timeline or definition of recovery, whether physically or emotionally. Below, we’ll detail some ways to get support after a miscarriage and how soon you can resume IVF if you choose to do so.
Though miscarriage is very common, occurring in 10-20% of all pregnancies, it is still not talked about very openly. Because of this, it’s possible to feel quite lonely, especially since there’s not an expected script for friends and family to follow to support you. You and your partner may grieve differently, adding to a sense of isolation. It’s okay not to know what you need, and to need to try some different ways to move through grief. For example:
There are so many feelings that can come up after miscarriage with IVF – sadness, guilt, loss, panic, disbelief, anger, numbness, frustration, and more. Any and all of them are completely normal. There’s no need to feel any shame or self-judgment for how or how long you are experiencing these emotions.
Because miscarriage is still not openly talked about, you may need to ask for support, and to describe to your loved ones the kind of support you need. For example, it may be helpful for you to talk through what happened in detail, or it may be better to have someone quietly sit with you for a while. You may need someone to take you out for dinner or a movie to get a break from your thoughts, or to have a loved one spend some time empathizing with you. It’s okay not to know exactly what you need, or for what you need to change with time.
When you have very tender feelings about pregnancy, loss, and wanting to be a parent, it can be just too difficult to be around people who are pregnant or whose lives are proceeding on a timeline that you wish you were on. It’s completely okay to take a break from spending time with those loved ones as you hope for your rainbow baby. It may help to decide on a set way to decline invitations or describe what is happening in your life right now so that it doesn’t require much thought in the moment. For example, “I’m wishing you all the best, but I can’t be there in person right now,” or “We have a lot going on and I will share when I’m ready.”
It can help to talk with a group of people who have also experienced miscarriage, who can empathize with your emotions and know what you’re going through without you needing to explain. Talking with a therapist whose role is to support you through the experience and help you process your emotions can also make an enormous difference. Your fertility clinic may even have a therapist or social worker on staff or be able to recommend someone to you. Getting professional help is particularly important if you are feeling excessive worry and anxiety (it interferes with your daily functioning), numbness, loss of interest in activities that you used to care about, flashbacks, or thoughts of hurting yourself.
Many organizations exist to help validate your experience, offer important information, and connect you with people who have gone through something similar. Some organizations you may explore include the March of Dimes, The Compassionate Friends, Share, and Return to Zero.
After a miscarriage, you may be anxious to restart the IVF process, either by doing another embryo transfer or by undergoing ovarian stimulation again. It may be reassuring to know that a 2002 study published in Fertility and Sterility showed that patients who experienced an early pregnancy loss had a greater chance of success during their next IVF cycle than patients who did not get a positive pregnancy test (1).
Because IVF is not a quick process, it can be particularly difficult to see the timeline lengthen for when you want to get pregnant and hope to have a baby. Setting expectations for the process may help you maintain energy for the next round. Here are some things to anticipate as you wade back into IVF.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Depending on how far along you were with your pregnancy, hCG can take 1-9 weeks to fall back to undetectable levels in your blood (the further along you were, the longer it may take). This allows your body and hormone levels to return to a place that makes pregnancy possible.
A dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure is sometimes necessary after a miscarriage to ensure that the tissue has all been removed from your uterus. It may take some time for your uterus to heal from the procedure (1-2 menstrual cycles, or 6-8 weeks). A saline infusion sonogram (SIS) of your uterine cavity can help determine whether there are any adhesions in your uterus that may interfere with pregnancy.
IVF can be mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially exhausting. It’s okay to decide that this is as far as you want (or are able) to take this part of your journey.
You may feel more anxious this time around, or unable to connect with your embryo even after transfer. It’s okay to have complex and even conflicting feelings as you begin the process again. Getting support for these emotions and knowing that they are completely normal can help.
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