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Miscarriage: Should you wait to conceive?

QUESTION: I had a miscarriage less than two months ago. I am still feeling incredibly sad and want to get pregnant as soon as possible to help take away the pain. Though my doctor has given the go- ahead, I'm wondering if it's a smart decision, from an emotional standpoint, to conceive shortly after a miscarriage.

ANSWER: Taking time to heal emotionally as well as physically, after a miscarriage is a wise choice. Hormonal balance may be affected by your emotions, and waiting until you have recovered may also help you approach your next pregnancy with less anxiety.

It is natural for you to experience a desire to replace what has been lost, but this expectation may prove false. Many women experience grief for a pregnancy loss, even after they have had a subsequent child. Perhaps allowing this pregnancy to be special involves grieving and letting go, before welcoming another. Consider allowing your body to become familiar with your cycle again. Like seasons turning, there is healing that comes with time.

Mourning for a miscarriage presents a unique challenge because others do not always fully understand the profoundness of your loss. Since there was no child born, the loss is less visible to others. But parents, especially mothers who miscarry experience significant loss of the promise for what was to come. It is particularly difficult to grieve what is not yet here. But this is exactly what parents face, after miscarriage.

Assure yourself that you will conceive again and ease your pain by talking with other moms who have experienced similar loss. Seek soothing from your partner by talking, crying together and creating a ritual to honor the passing away of your first pregnancy. Let go of the dream that was, as a part of the process of making room for the dreams to come.

Expect some anxiety in your next pregnancy, until you pass the time of loss. In the meantime, consider the following suggestions to help your through this period.

1) Engage in an activity that soothes body and mind

Yoga or some other form of mind-body exercise can calm your spirit and support your body's recovery. Use your breath to reach places that need healing and release emotions, while doing something good for yourself.

2) Visualize healing

Breath into your womb and visualize the inside cells of your womb healing, oxygen flowing into the tissues...go to the place where you held your child, and say "good bye", if you wish. See the tissue healing, turning pink, soft and healthy. Eventually visualize your womb readying itself for another pregnancy. But only after several times of visualization, and when you feel ready to do so.

3) Consider counseling

Consult with a counselor with expertise in pregnancy and birth to talk and explore further, if necessary. Address anything this loss might have surfaced for you or ways it may have negatively impacted your relationship with your husband.

Some couples find a hidden treasure as they move through their grief together. A gift of discovering each other on a deeper level, more readiness for the responsibility of parenthood, or some other value to their shared journey may offer a sliver lining and a deepening of the maturity so important in becoming parents together.

Listen to your intuition on this one. It is likely that there is something to be learned by taking your time to heal.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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