Expecting a baby after your baby or child has died can be an emotionally heightened experience and feelings may be complicated and confusing. 

When is it right to have another child?

It was the hardest thing, wanting to try for a baby again, and I needed time.

Emma, whose baby daughter died

Whether you choose to try for another baby after your baby or child has died, and when, are deeply personal decisions. Some people believe that parents need adequate time to grieve, but when is right is a decision that can only be made by you.

There are however some circumstances where you might need to take advice before becoming pregnant again. For example, if your child died as a result of a genetic condition, you may wish to undergo genetic screening to help you make informed decisions about future risks. If your baby died at or around birth, it may be helpful for you to talk to a medical professional about when you might be physically ready for another pregnancy.  

How can I cope with complicated feelings?

Almost as soon as we get excited and start looking forward we I feel guilt: ‘Should we be doing this?’, ‘Should we be feeling like this?’.

Fraser, whose daughter was stillborn at 30 weeks

Being blessed with a new baby after losing a child is an indescribable experience. It is an experience of polarising emotions; the hope and excitement of new life and a new beginning are met with and haunted by a looming sense of fear and guilt.

Dionne, mother to Johari and older sister Nia, who died aged two.

Being blessed with a new baby after losing a child is an indescribable experience. It is an experience of polarising emotions; the hope and excitement of new life and a new beginning are met with and haunted by a looming sense of fear and guilt.

Being pregnant again can be a joyful experience but also an anxious one. The way each family responds will be different and may be dependent on a number of factors including your family’s culture and experiences, the age at which your baby or child died, and the reason for your child or baby’s death, if this is known. 

Parents may be fearful that something may happen to their new baby. When an older child has died, this anxiety about a baby’s wellbeing may persist until they reach the age at which their sibling died, and sometimes beyond. These feelings are natural and it can help to talk about your concerns with someone you trust such as a family member, friend, health professional or bereavement support practitioner.

You may also feel guilty about being excited about the new baby and that this means you’re somehow being disloyal to your child who has died. Bereaved parents we have supported who have had another baby tell us that love is not a finite thing and it is possible to love your new child while also remembering your child with both love and sadness. It can help to recognise that this is a different pregnancy with a different child and that both children are important to you and that your love for them is equal. 

Although you may be looking forward to the arrival of your new baby, there may also be times when your pregnancy is a difficult reminder of what you have lost. Some parents we have supported have told us that they were worried about the gender of the baby, with some hoping for a baby of the same gender and some preferring the baby to be a different gender; choosing to find this out at a scan can therefore be particularly emotional. Again, it can help to talk over any difficult feelings with a health professional.

Will I be able to love my new baby while remembering my child who has died?

There isn’t a finite amount of love that a parent has to allot to their children, the love that I feel for my daughters is infinite, and with this realisation I am now able to love them both without fear or caution.

Dionne, mother to Johari and older sister Nia, who died aged two.

The child you are expecting is as special in their own right as your baby or child who died. It’s perfectly OK and natural to continue to love them both as individuals as part of your family. 

Some parents may feel concerned that bonding with their new child will be affected by their fear for their baby’s wellbeing and their grief for their child who has died. Some parents say they can feel detached from the pregnancy and that this is a way of protecting themselves, others worry that bonding means it will seem like they’re forgetting their baby who has died. It’s understandable that a parent who has been bereaved of a child may feel this way; it’s also important not to put pressure on yourself but to allow your relationship with your new baby to develop naturally. No two children are the same and it’s OK to have a different but just as precious relationship with each one. 

Some bereaved parents say it can be helpful to allow yourself the time and space to remember your baby, perhaps by looking at photos or being in nature, or writing a journal as if to their baby about their thoughts and feelings as a way to express their ongoing love for them. 

How will I cope with revisiting places and situations that remind me of my child who has died?

There may be times in your pregnancy where you may need to visit places that remind you of your child that has died, such as going to an antenatal class or attending an antenatal or scan appointment at the hospital. It can help to let staff know that this is difficult for you and ask for it to be written on your notes so that other staff are aware. Some families find it helpful and comforting to be in a familiar environment with staff they know but others may prefer to go to a completely different hospital with fewer reminders, if this is an option. You may also find it helpful to have your partner, friend or another family member accompany you to your appointments so they can support you if you find it difficult. 

When shall I tell other people I’m expecting another child?

Some bereaved families tell us that they are anxious about telling people that they are expecting another child because they are concerned that things may not progress well or that others might ‘judge’ them for deciding on another pregnancy or be overly positive about the new pregnancy in a way that fails to acknowledge their ongoing grief for the baby or child who died. Others feel it’s a deeply personal experience that they don’t wish to share until they are ready. While it is natural to worry about what other people might think, only you know what is right for you, and what you tell other people, and when, is for you to decide; you are under no obligation to share anything until you are ready. 

How can I cope with what other people might say?

Don’t judge anyone else’s grief by the way you conduct yours. Whether you’re wailing and saying it’s not fair or hunkering down and not talking about it, there’s not a right or wrong way, Everyone has their own way of coping and dealing with things.

Precious, whose son died at 38 weeks

Sometimes people may mistakenly think it’s kind and comforting to say that your baby will replace your child that has died or that having another baby will lessen your loss and that everything will now be OK. These kinds of comments are of course not helpful, even if well-intentioned. We know from supporting bereaved parents that your child is irreplaceable - every child is special and unique. 

Other people may not wish to talk to you about your pregnancy or your new baby as they might be worried they may say something that upsets you. Some bereaved parents tell us this can make them feel very isolated. Let people know if you don’t mind talking about your child who has died or want to talk about them, your pregnancy or new baby. Remember that it’s up to you how much or how little you choose to share.

Why is my partner grieving differently?

We just couldn’t communicate, we were grieving in such different ways pushing each other away.

Emma, whose baby daughter died when she was nine and a half weeks old

The way two people in a relationship deal with grief can sometimes differ and when a new baby is on the way you may find the way you react is different at some points. Sometimes one of you may be in a coping phase thinking about making practical arrangements for the arrival of the new baby while the other may be deep in their grief and focused on the baby who has died. Navigating these feelings can be very difficult but it is a normal part of grieving. It can help to talk to your partner about how you’re both feeling so that you can understand and accommodate each other’s emotions. 

How will I feel when my new baby is born?

We’ve learned from Child Bereavement UK that it’s OK to grieve alongside living your normal life.

Kat, whose daughter was stillborn at 30 weeks

While the arrival of your new baby may be a time of happiness and joy, it can also be a time when you revisit your grief and feel a deep sense that your other child is missing. For some parents there might be a sense of feeling ‘complete’, of gratitude that your baby is safe. It’s OK to experience both these feelings and to move between them. 

Some parents tell us they experience great anxiety about their new baby’s health and feel extra protective, often not wanting to share their baby with their friends and family initially or being extra concerned about hygiene and safety. This is understandable and it’s OK to set boundaries in terms of how much contact you want with others initially. As you become more confident and established this may change but it’s OK to explain to others how you are feeling and why and to ask them to be patient with you. 

Doing things differently with your new child and coping with milestones

Part of you feels a sense of ‘inheriting grief’, almost being a bystander of your family’s loss. You see the sadness of your family on those special days, hear stories from your parents and older siblings and see how it affects them.

Andrew, whose brother died before he was born

For some families, it is comforting to use the same cot, clothes and toys for their new baby, as often happens when any new child enters a family. However, some families prefer to start afresh with new decoration, equipment or clothes. What you decide to do is up to you and what you feel comfortable with as a family. Milestones such as saying their first words, birthdays, starting school, sitting exams, going to college, graduation or starting a job, which maybe your child who died also reached or didn’t reach, can be painful and poignant. While as a parent you are happy for your child, there will be mixed emotions - you may feel sad that their sibling is missing out and wonder what they would have been like too. It’s important that you can, where possible, make space to enjoy these experiences while remembering your other child. It can help to talk about how you are feeling and to be aware that it’s OK to feel sad while also feeling excited and celebratory about new beginnings and ventures. 

He is so full of life and energy I sometimes think it is partly him saying, ‘Don’t forget — I am here too.’ In fact, I’m sure there is an element of that.

Jason, talking about his 11 year old son after the death of his daughter

Should I tell my child about their sibling who died?

Losing a brother I never knew is still a loss in my life, As with every loss, the experience and feelings are unique to each person. I love him, I miss him and I mourn the life we could have shared together.

Andrew, whose brother died before he was born

Talking about their sibling who has died is very important in helping your child to feel included and to form their own connection with them. Talk about their physical characteristics or things they did, liked or disliked, to help build a picture and make their sibling part of their family story. We know from families we support that children often want to hear about their sibling who died and will often be the member of the family who speaks about them and asks questions most often. Answer your child’s questions openly and honestly and share your memories with them, especially if they are positive, funny or inspiring, but try not to idealise the person or portray them as someone ‘perfect’ who your child cannot possibly hope to be like or live up to. 

Guidance on when a child doesn’t remember someone who has died

You may have lots of supportive people around you, but some people find it helpful to seek help from outside the family or through a support organisation like Child Bereavement UK. For support on pregnancy after the death of a baby or child, talk to our Helpline team on 0800 02 888 40