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I had my first cycle of IVF and was thrilled that early tests said that I was pregnant. Unfortunately, later tests said that I was not. Now the doctors are saying that it was a chemical pregnancy. I’m feeling devastated about this. I really feel like I lost a baby. But I wonder if I have the right to grieve because it was only a chemical pregnancy and I wasn’t pregnant for very long. How do I cope with this?

Written by our mental health expert, Dr. Karen Kranz.

When making sense of your most recent loss, and asking yourself if you have a right to grieve, it’s important to recognize that this loss is one of a series of losses that you’ve likely experienced during your journey to try to have a child. The first of these probably occurred when you and your partner were trying to conceive. Each month when your period arrived, you felt the loss of that potential baby. Then, in the process of deciding that an IVF cycle was your best option for conception, there were all the losses associated with fertility testing, and being faced with the “odds” of a successful pregnancy, due to problems identified in you or your partner’s reproductive biology. Perhaps after all the tests, the doctors couldn’t come up with any reasons why you’re were not getting pregnant and IVF was your only option other than to just “keep trying.” Added to all these losses, is the loss of having to conceive your child through an invasive and clinical medical procedure involving doctors and nurses and lab technicians, rather than through the natural process of sharing your love with your partner.

Against the backdrop of so many silent and unacknowledged losses, you must have been overjoyed and ecstatic to learn that you were finally pregnant, only to have that joy cruelly snatched away from you. I can understand how devastating it must have been to have come so close to achieving your dream of finally becoming a mother, only to be told what you had experienced was a chemical pregnancy. My heart goes out to you and your partner. It is entirely understandable that you feel like you lost a baby – because even for the brief time you thought you were pregnant – that child lived in your heart. For you and your partner there was a death – the loss of your potential baby – the loss of your dream – the loss of believing that with the help of the medical experts, your dream of becoming parents would be realized. You have every right to feel grief and anger and loss.

I encourage you to acknowledge and recognize that your losses are significant and real. Take care of yourself (e.g., be gentle with yourself, feed yourself well, get plenty of rest and exercise). Share your feelings with your partner. Recognize that he may not be experiencing the same emotions, given that this loss played itself out in your body. He may be sad about the loss of this pregnancy, but he likely is even more distressed about what you are going through, and have gone through, emotionally and physically, to get to this point. Reassure your partner that he does not have to feel the same way in order to understand and to support you. Reach out to others as well. It is so important not go through the pain of these losses alone. You may find comfort by joining a support group in your area, or online. If, after some time, you still find that the pain is too great, you may want to see a counsellor to help you work through the multitude of losses that you’ve experienced as you’ve dealt with infertility, medical treatment, and the loss of this pregnancy.

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