Ask the Expert is a column at Pregnancy After Loss Support (PALS) where members of the community ask questions of experts who treat moms who are pregnant after loss. Visit our Ask the Expert page to submit a question.
*Disclaimer: Pregnancy After Loss Support does not give medical or psychological advice. We are strictly a peer-to-peer support resource and community where we believe in the healing power of sharing our stories. If you have any concerns with your pregnancy, birth, or emotional health please contact your doctor, midwife, or mental health professional, as we all know it is extremely important to take care of yourself and baby during this difficult journey through pregnancy after loss.
Dear Dr. Bindeman,
I am about two weeks late, but I’m spotting. I have all the old pregnancy familiar symptoms EXCEPT the spotting. So I’m terrified to take a pregnancy test. I lost a child at 22 weeks and then 4 months later I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks. That second miscarriage was the only time I ever bled while pregnant so I’m avoiding taking the pregnancy test because if I am in fact miscarrying, I would rather not know and tell myself it was my period being super late. IS THAT INSANE???? I know other women are so eager but I feel like once I take the test my anxiety will go to a debilitating level.
Scared to Test
Dear Scared to Test,
Oh, how it makes sense that you are scared. There is no “right” way to decide to test (or not) after a loss. Just like there is not a “right way” for about anything after loss. Different mamas handle it differently. Some look forward to that double line as it connects them to the idea that there is hope after loss, whereas some others don’t want that confirmation as it brings that back on the roller coaster of emotions.
I wish that I could also say to you that every sign/symptom has a clear pathway to what it means in the future. For some women, spotting means the beginning of a miscarriage, though for others, it might signal implantation, discharge after sex, or other reasons that aren’t indicative of a loss. When bad things happen (especially more than once) it is understandable that similarities in the future are attributed to another bad thing happening.
Telling yourself that your period is later, rather than confirming a pregnancy (or confirming it IS a late period) also makes sense. You are protecting yourself and your very fragile feelings. Two losses within a year is so hard, so it makes sense that the thought of a late period is more soothing than a potential third loss.
On the other hand, if you confirm you are pregnant and you then need to manage another loss, this information might become useful, as you could justify to your healthcare provider testing that might illuminate potential underlying causes for your losses. This information, of course, comes with its own double-edged sword: potentially, you learn about the underlying causes and this enables you to take action for future pregnancies or the testing doesn’t end up helping to get you closer to any understanding of why you have experienced loss. Again, there is no one “right” decision, and weighing the options and their pros and cons is no simple task.
Be gentle with yourself. Err on the side of your emotions and protection, whatever that might look like for you. Know that you have a community to support you regardless of what happens.
We are here for you,
Dr. Julie Bindeman and the PALS Team