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Recovery and future pregnancies - Stillbirth

Your body needs time to recover after any birth. This can be very difficult when your baby has died.

Your hormones react as they would to any birth. You may have soreness around your vagina. Like any birth, you may have bleeding and some discomfort for a few days.

Breast milk

Your breasts may fill with milk. If you find this upsetting, talk to your GP, obstetrician or midwife. You can take medication to stop this from happening.

Support after the birth

All maternity hospitals provide bereavement care. Your GP, midwife and obstetrician will support you during your physical and emotional recovery.

Your maternity unit or hospital should offer additional supports such as:

  • clinical midwife specialist in bereavement and loss
  • chaplaincy or pastoral care
  • external counselling supports

Many parents who have experienced the loss of a baby find it helpful to talk to other people who have been through a similar experience. It helps them to feel less alone. There are a number of support groups you can contact when you feel ready.

Get more support information from Pregnancy and Infant Loss Ireland

Medical care after the birth

Urgent advice: Call your GP or maternity unit immediately if you have any of the following:

  • smelly vaginal discharge
  • heavy bleeding from your vagina, especially if there are clots
  • fever (high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher)
  • feel unwell
  • pain in your tummy, especially if it is severe or not settling
  • pain, redness or swelling in your legs, especially in the calf area
  • chest pain, cough, coughing up blood or shortness of breath

Deciding to try for another baby

Making the decision to try again for a baby after a stillbirth is a very personal one. What is right for one person might not be for another. It’s a good idea to allow your body time to recover physically from the pregnancy and birth, as well as giving yourself time to heal emotionally.

On average, women who have 1 stillbirth are 2 to 10 times more likely to have another stillbirth than women who have not had a stillbirth.

Most women who get pregnant again after a stillbirth deliver a live, healthy baby.

You may wish to wait for results from any tests or investigations done after your baby died. These results might reveal a specific problem and you’ll want to know if this could affect a future pregnancy, or if it can be treated. Other factors such as your age or general health might affect the timing of when you try again too.

Read more about reducing the risk of stillbirth

Feelings during pregnancy after loss

Stillbirth is not common. But you and your partner may be anxious during your next pregnancy.

Pregnancy after loss can become a very anxious time full of fear and worry. Most health professionals are aware of this and will be able to offer you extra care, monitoring and reassurance in your next pregnancy.

Many parents find joining a 'pregnancy after loss' support group comforting as these parents understand what they are going through.

Having a baby after a loss does not replace the baby who died. It can be helpful for some families to try to include them in this pregnancy and think of them as a big sister or brother. But it’s important to do what’s right for you and your situation.

Extra care during pregnancy after loss

In any pregnancies you have following a stillbirth, you should be put into a ‘high risk’ group because you had a previous stillbirth. This usually means that you will get extra care and extra scans to carefully monitor your baby’s growth and development. Although this does not get rid of the anxiety, most parents find it very reassuring. You are also likely to be under the care of a consultant as well as a midwife.

Any cause of death found may influence the type of antenatal care you have during your next pregnancy.

Your healthcare professionals may prescribe medicine if problems like pre-eclampsia or clotting disorders were diagnosed as the reason your baby died. This is to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications. This medicine may include aspirin tablets or injections of blood thinners into your tummy.

You will be offered extra antenatal care visits and scans, as well as additional care and support. The number of extra scans and appointments you get will depend on your doctor and the cause (if known) of your baby’s death.

You should talk to your obstetrician and midwife about the timing of birth for the baby. As your due date approaches, you are likely to be offered an induction of labour, even if your new pregnancy has been uncomplicated.

Your baby's growth

If your baby is smaller than expected or they grow less than they should as the pregnancy continues, it may be because the placenta isn't working properly. This increases the risk of stillbirth.

Problems with a baby's growth can be picked up during antenatal appointments or on ultrasound scans.

Your midwife or doctor will check the wellbeing of your baby at each antenatal appointment. For women with higher risk pregnancies, growth scans are often recommended.

Read more about babies who are small or growing slowly.

Your baby's movements

It's important to be aware of your baby's movements and know what's normal for your baby.

Paying attention to your baby’s movements will help you become aware if there are changes, this might mean that your baby is unwell and you should talk to your doctor or go to your hospital.

Babies reduce their movements when they feel unwell, this is because they are trying to conserve their energy. Around half of the mothers that have had a stillbirth noticed a slowdown in their babies’ movements. If you are aware of your baby’s pattern of movements, you will be able to detect when these change. Going to the hospital at this time can make a difference for your baby.

Urgent advice: Call and go to your maternity unit or hospital immediately if:

  • you notice the baby's movements slowing down or stopping

Do not wait until the next day.

Page last reviewed: 26 July 2023
Next review due: 26 July 2026