Pregnancy loss is a devastating experience for anyone. Despite its common occurrence (the risk for healthy women ranges from 10-25%), it can take some time to recover both physically and emotionally after a miscarriage.
An interesting result of pregnancy loss, however, is the question of whether or not women become more fertile after miscarriage. This can stem from one of the more repeated (albeit unhelpful) platitudes women tend to receive: “At least you got pregnant!” The possibility of increased fertility post-miscarriage offers women something that they may need during a very painful time in their lives — hope.
Another reason people may believe they’re more fertile after miscarriage is that there have been a few studies over the years suggesting there is some weight to that theory. One study showed 76% of women successfully got pregnant — and delivered a live baby — within three months of pregnancy loss. Another study showed similar successes within six months of pregnancy loss.
So, are you more fertile after a miscarriage? Or is this merely a myth offering false hope? Let’s take a look at the facts:
Are you more likely to get pregnant after a miscarriage?
Probably not, says Jessica Ryniec, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist with CCRM Boston. “Unfortunately this is one of the myths that is most likely not true.” The main reason being: “Following a miscarriage, there is no evidence for physical or hormonal changes that would lead to an increased chance of conception,” explains Dr. Ryniec.
How soon can I start trying again following a pregnancy loss?
Although Dr. Ryniec says that you can typically start trying again once your periods come back, “it’s important to wait until you feel emotionally and physically ready, and that may take longer” than just waiting until menstruation resumes.
Dr. Ryniec also advises following your provider’s specific recommendations, depending on your individual medical needs: “There may be reasons why people should wait longer than the general guidelines.” But from a physical safety standpoint, she says you’ll want to wait at least two weeks after miscarriage before resuming intercourse to prevent infection. The reason why doctors recommend holding off on trying to conceive until your periods return, however, is for the sake of accuracy. “You will ovulate before you get a period,” says Dr. Ryniec, “and it can be confusing whether a positive hCG is a new pregnancy or a persistent elevated HCG from your prior pregnancy.”
Regardless of the studies that suggest higher success rates for those who didn’t wait to start trying again after pregnancy loss, it’s important to keep in mind that miscarriage can be as much of an emotional rollercoaster as a physical one. “A miscarriage can be very difficult emotionally for a person or couple,” acknowledges Dr. Ryniec. “While some people may not need a long time to recover mentally, some may need some extra time to process the range of feelings that may occur, and it's important to talk to your doctor about available resources that may help.”
So if you need a mental health provider, don’t hesitate to ask your OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist for guidance.
What are the chances of miscarrying a second or third time?
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According to the Mayo Clinic, miscarriage is “usually” a one-time occurrence, with only 1% of women experiencing repeated pregnancy losses. The risk of subsequent miscarriages does increase with each pregnancy loss, so it’s important to be mindful of any factors that could affect fertility: Age, medical history, menstrual history, and how long you’ve been trying to conceive. Dr. Ryniec advises anyone who has had more than one miscarriage to speak to their medical provider about getting a recurrent pregnancy loss evaluation. Recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as two or more miscarriages.
Are there fertility-boosting lifestyle choices people can make post-miscarriage?
It’s never a bad idea to adopt a healthier diet and lifestyle, whether you’re trying to conceive for the first time — or following a pregnancy loss. Dr. Ryniec recommends getting good sleep, getting in 150 minutes of moderate activity a week (30 minutes a day), drinking lots of water, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. She also suggests taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, limiting alcohol to 4-6 drinks per week, and limiting caffeine to less than 200mg a day (roughly one mug of coffee). And don’t smoke or take drugs.
Trying to get pregnant after a miscarriage is a very personal decision — and there’s no recommended timeline. While certain studies may suggest it’s a good idea to start sooner rather than later post-pregnancy loss, it’s not worth putting your body, and your mental state, through another potentially stressful experience before you’re ready. Especially considering there really isn’t enough evidence to prove increased fertility is a given after a miscarriage. Make sure you’ve emotionally and physically recovered from your loss, using whatever resources are necessary to heal, first.
Sarene Leeds holds an M.S. in Professional Writing from NYU, and is a seasoned journalist, having written and reported on subjects ranging from TV and pop culture to health, wellness, and parenting over the course of her career. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, Vulture, SheKnows, and numerous other outlets. A staunch mental health advocate, Sarene also hosts the podcast “Emotional Abuse Is Real.” Visit her website here, or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.