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Navigating pregnancy loss: A podcast with Dr. Frances Casey

There’s no handbook to prepare families for the devastation of pregnancy loss. Everybody processes grief differently. Unfortunately, some women feel they are to blame.

Dr. Frances Casey, director of family planning services at VCU Health, aims to remove the stigma and provide clarity around pregnancy loss.  “It's important to remember that early pregnancy loss is most often beyond the patient's control. There's really nothing different a patient could have done in relationship to a loss. I never want anyone to feel blamed for that.”

Casey wants you to know there are things you can do optimize your pregnancy and reduce your risk of pregnancy loss. This includes looking at your overall health and nutrition and resolving any substance use issues you may have. Controlling blood pressure and diabetes are especially important during pregnancy. As you prepare for pregnancy, she says, preconception counseling and resources are really important if you have medical conditions or other health concerns.

Here and in this podcast, Dr. Casey offers advice on navigating pregnancy loss.

Listen to the podcast

Frances CaseyHow common is pregnancy loss?

Pregnancy loss is more common in the first trimester and is more common among women of color. As many as one in five women suffer pregnancy loss by age 35. Pregnancy loss can result from genetic abnormalities or problems that arise anytime throughout gestation.

There’s no wrong emotion

In the short term, you may experience a variety of emotions. If it was a long-awaited pregnancy, you may feel devastated. In other instances, you may feel relieved.

“It’s also very important that we help patients understand they're not alone, that they don't need to feel alone. That no matter when this is taking place for them, we can help them with further resources.”

Community resources include Full Circle Grief Center and the MISS Foundation. Casey encourages you to talk to your doctors or a psychologist/counselor if you need help coping. She also recommends community resources, such as Full Circle Grief Center and the MISS Foundation, as well as online support groups. Your doctor may be able to point some out to you.

Pregnancy after a previous loss

Pregnancies following a previous loss can be particularly anxiety inducing. Providers are in a unique position to help you and your partner navigate the uncertainty as well as the emotions that may arise as you move through the different stages of your pregnancy.

“Perhaps it's offering additional ultrasounds or appointments to ease your anxiety so you can see the progress of your pregnancy over time,” suggests Dr. Casey. “Other patients very much want to distance their appointments, because it makes them feel nervous to come in, and it brings too many memories. Again, this really speaks to honoring the patient where she is and where her family is in the process and just making sure there's open communication.”

Pregnancy in the era of COVID-19

You may be thinking about having a baby now despite the threat of COVID-19. Casey encourages you not to look at this as either a “right” or “wrong” time to pursue a pregnancy. Instead, she encourages you to focus on the evidence currently available in regards to the vaccine and the virus’s potential effect on pregnancy. The more educated you become, the more you’ll trust your decision-making.

Listen to an in-depth conversation on navigating pregnancy loss in this podcast with Dr. Frances Casey, director of family planning services at VCU Health.  

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