The physical impact of second trimester loss
The physical impact of second trimester loss can vary widely and it can be particularly distressing if you don’t know what to expect.
We provide some information below, but it can’t take the place of medical advice. Do contact your GP, midwife or hospital team if you need any medical help.
Pain and bleeding
Everyone is different, but after a second trimester loss, you are likely to have some bleeding and perhaps pain like a period. This might go on for several weeks, with the pain and bleeding gradually getting less and less over that time. If you normally have a regular cycle, you can expect your period to return after around 4-8 weeks.
It is worth asking your doctor or midwife for advice if:
- the bleeding or pain increases
- you have a vaginal discharge that looks or smells bad, or
- you are worried about any other physical symptoms.
Your midwife might offer to visit you at home to see how you are doing. Your doctor can also give you a sick note/fit note if you need one for work.
Your breasts may be tender and, depending on how many weeks pregnant you were, may produce milk, and you might find this very upsetting. You may find it helpful to talk to your midwife or doctor about this and about what can help. They may suggest tablets to reduce the production of milk.
They were great and said I could let my breast milk come naturally if I wanted or have the tablets to stop it happening. I chose the tablets as I couldn’t face that.
If you are producing milk, a well-supporting bra can help you feel more comfortable. Breast pads from a chemist or supermarket can help soak up any leaking milk.
If your breasts are painful, you might need to take a mild painkiller such as paracetamol but if they are very painful or inflamed, it’s best to consult your doctor or midwife.
Some people decide to donate their milk to help other babies. There is a list of milk banks here.
Time to recover
You may feel physically and emotionally exhausted for quite a long time after your loss. Your body needs time to recover from labour and maybe also from infection or treatment. If you are producing milk, that can be tiring too. Despite being tired, you may find it hard to sleep.
I felt tired all the time and didn’t want to get out of bed. I had a constant pain in my chest and a heavy feeling all over.
Try to give yourself time to recover. Sometimes the demands of home and work make that difficult and some employers may not understand your needs or their responsibilities at that time. We talk more about this below.
If you normally work, you are likely to need time off both during and after your loss. If you are an employee, you will be entitled to pregnancy-related sickness leave. Employers and managers may not know this, however, so we’d suggest you read this leaflet (especially pages 2 and 3) and share it with them.
Pregnancy-related leave may or may not be paid – it depends on your work contract. But it must be recorded separately as pregnancy-related sickness. This means that your time off must not be used against you in any way (for example as a reason to discipline you, refuse promotion or make you redundant).
You should be able to self-certify that the leave is pregnancy-related for the first seven days. After this, you will need a GP or other medical practitioner to give you a sick/fit note to certify it is pregnancy-related.
If you are self-employed and/or do casual work, the rules might not reply, but Citizens Advice will be able to explain your rights.
You may feel that it’s best to return to work as soon as possible after your loss, perhaps because you’re not being paid, or because of pressure from your workplace. But you might want to be with colleagues and/or to have the routine of work to help you through. Hopefully, managers and colleagues will be supportive. If not, we have some suggestions for you and for them here.
I have spent moments at work shedding tears in the bathroom, pushing my emotional limit to smile through baby showers and birth announcements, having the stress of the work place tire me out and just not wanting to be there.
It is for you and your partner to decide when you feel ready to start having sex again, but it is advisable to wait until your bleeding has completely stopped. Some people may be advised to wait longer for medical reasons, for example an infection.
It is possible to become pregnant before periods restart so if you want to avoid this, you may want to use contraception.
You or your partner may have mixed feelings about resuming sex. You may have pain or discomfort, or one or both of you may feel less desire. You may associate intercourse with pregnancy and loss, and any sexual intimacy may just feel ‘wrong’. You might find it helpful to read our leaflet Partners Too or visit the Partners page of our website.
How you look and feel
People have very different feelings about how they look. You might be upset if you still look pregnant and feel better when you can wear your ordinary clothes again. Or you may feel that getting back to your pre-pregnant shape is somehow forgetting or even betraying your baby. You might not want to let go of the look and feel of pregnancy.
You might feel that the sooner you get back to your usual routine, the quicker you’ll feel better. That might work, but don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t. You may just need more time.
On the next page, we talk about the emotional impact of second trimester loss.