Grieving Through Pregnancy? What You Should Know

View of pregnant woman through window. She is looking down sadly.Pregnancy is often considered a joyous and exciting time. But sometimes life has other plans. Death, natural disasters, and other changes can lead to grief or trauma at any stage of life. Grief can be an unwelcome visitor in a time often filled with anticipation. It also comes with a long list of symptoms that tend to be unpleasant.

It is normal to worry about how grief may affect pregnancy. Here are some things to consider if you find yourself grieving during these crucial nine months.

Grief and Mental Health During Pregnancy

Grief is not the same as depression, but the two can share some symptoms. A person affected by grief during pregnancy may have a different experience than someone working through a mental health issue like depression. This article specifically addresses grief. But is it important to be able to distinguish between the effects of each condition. There are different approaches to managing grief and depression. Pinpointing what you experience may better help you address it:

  • Depression and similar mental health issues are often long-term. They do not always have a single cause. Professional treatment may be required to mitigate their effects.
  • Grief is a period of intense sorrow or mourning. It may last for a shorter period, although this is not always the case. Usually, it occurs after a specific and sometimes traumatic life event. Grief can act in much the same way as other stressors. These stressors can trigger physical symptoms that may affect pregnancy.

Causes of Grief During Pregnancy

Miscarriage may come to mind when the topics of pregnancy and grief are discussed. This life event is indeed a source of grief worth acknowledging. But it is not the only reason for someone to experience grief during a pregnancy. Some sources of grief may have nothing to do with the pregnancy and still affect it.

Other causes of grief can include:

Health complications for the mother or child during pregnancy can also cause grief. Any of these can effect physical symptoms that could impact a pregnancy. These life events may start a shock reaction in the body. Shock can affect pregnancy in a way similar to grief or stress.

How Grief Affects Pregnancy

Grief can affect pregnancy through its impact on hormone balance and production. Pregnancy already has an effect on hormones. When pregnancy and grief take place at the same time, hormonal changes may have more extreme effects.

The impact of grief can be varied, but there are some common patterns. Grief can cause an imbalance in serotonin production. It also raises the body’s cortisol, or stress hormone, levels. Fetuses can be susceptible to these changes. Disruptions in regular chemical production may have effects that last throughout a pregnancy. In extreme cases, these effects may impact the child’s life later on.

Grief can also worsen symptoms that typically come with pregnancy. These could include aches and pains, sleep issues, and digestive problems. Combined with a sudden loss, these symptoms may become more intense. If you are worried about any these symptoms, consult your health care provider.

Potential Risks of Grief During Pregnancy

Some symptoms of grief may increase certain risks associated with pregnancy. Most of these risks only occur if the grief is severe. Some of these risks include:

  • Developmental delays. Some research suggests that stress during pregnancy could cause developmental delays for the child. This may be the case primarily for intense stress, or grief caused by losing a loved one suddenly. One study showed that pregnant mothers who lost a parent were at a higher risk for having a caesarean. Their babies were also found to be slightly smaller in weight. The weight difference was more likely to impact males than females.
  • Future mental health issues. Fetal programming is a term for how the environment outside the womb can affect a fetus. This can have a long-lasting impact on how a child develops later in life. A period of intense grief in pregnancy may translate to a greater chance of neurodevelopment issues for the child. These issues could include anxiety, ADHD, and impacts on cognitive function.
  • Increased likelihood of stillbirth. A 2013 study found those who had experienced five or more stressful life events within the year were more likely to experience a stillbirth. Both a high level of severity and frequency of stressful events were required to influence a stillbirth.

These risks may sound scary, but they are still relatively uncommon. There are also many ways to reduce the effects of grief. Learning to manage grief in healthy ways while honoring the grieving period may help. Good coping strategies can reduce the effects of grief on a pregnancy.

Can Grief Be a Positive Influence?

Grief does not only increase the risks of pregnancy. A little stress may actually promote a positive outcome. A 2006 study found that mothers who reported stress or symptoms of grief during pregnancy had children with more advanced motor skills and development. The sample population for this study was small and focused on low-risk pregnancies. Deep or sudden grief brought on by a series of traumatic events did not factor into this study.

Studies like these may still provide hope for those going through grief and pregnancy at the same time. Keeping up with medical appointments, working with a therapist, and using healthy skills to cope with grief may prove beneficial. Doing these things can continue to increase a child’s chances for a healthy and happy future.

How to Cope with Grief During Pregnancy

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy pregnancy during the grief period is to care for oneself. Reach out to your support network and practice regular self-care. These habits can help reduce stress and bring comfort when feelings of grief are intense. They may also provide a nurturing environment for the baby throughout the pregnancy.

Some methods of coping with grief during pregnancy include:

  • Seeing a licensed therapist
  • Attending couples counseling with a partner
  • Talking with trusted friends
  • Taking a relaxing bath or nap
  • Practicing gratitude, journaling, or meditation
  • Listening to music that makes you feel good
  • Telling the baby stories about your loved ones
  • Taking walks with your partner or a friend

There is one thing it may help to avoid if you are grieving and pregnant: worry. Obsessing over whether grief may affect a pregnancy is likely to cause further stress. Increased stress may worsen symptoms and make pregnancy more difficult. If you are struggling with feelings of grief or stress during pregnancy, talking to a therapist or counselor can help. They can teach you skills to manage grief and address any anxiety you may experience about your pregnancy.

Practicing self-care may facilitate a healthy pregnancy whether grief is present or not. It is not necessary or even natural to feel gleefully happy throughout an entire pregnancy. But managing strong or negative emotions may lead to less stress and more balance.


  1. Black, S. E., Devereux, P. J., & Salvanes, K. G. (2014). Does grief transfer across generations? In-utero deaths and outcomes. IZA. Retrieved from
  2. Dealing with grief during pregnancy. (n.d.). Pregnancy Magazine. Retrieved from
  3. DiPietro, J. A., Novak, M. F. S. X., Costigan, K. A., Atella, L. D., & Reusing, S. P. (2006, May 9). Maternal psychological distress during pregnancy in relation to child development at age two. Child Development, 3(77), 573-587. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00891.x
  4. Glover, V. (2013, August 6). Effects of prenatal stress can affect children into adulthood. The Conversation. Retrieved from
  5. Glover, V. (2011). The effects of prenatal stress on child behavioural and cognitive outcomes start at the beginning. Retrieved from
  6. Oberlander, T. F. (2012). Fetal serotonin signaling: Setting pathways for early childhood development and behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 2(51), S9-S16. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.04.009
  7. Rettner, R. (2013, March 27). Stress in pregnancy boosts stillbirth risk. Retrieved from

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Gail M

    December 7th, 2019 at 10:15 PM

    My mother went through extreme grieving – extreme… her first child died of a brain tumor that actually cracked his skull and they were taken by police escort to a Boston Hospital where he died just 2 months before his 4th birthday. My mother wanted to have another child right away. She got pregnant with me 2 months after his death. I have suffered from severe clinical depressions the majority or my life – even though she named me Gail so my nickname would be Gay (which it was for years) so I could bring happiness back to her life and all I did was bring depression… is there a causal affect of such deep grieving while immediately conceiving me? Thank you. By the way, this was back in 1947 when no one knew anything about seratonin and hormones.

  • Letti

    October 22nd, 2020 at 11:00 PM

    33 weeks pregnant and just lost my parter to a car accident..struggling to eat and sleep. My whole world has just crashed at my feet.I’m strgling to cope

  • Natasha

    November 4th, 2020 at 2:49 AM

    My heart breaks for you. Sending you lots of love and strength xxx

  • sarah

    November 19th, 2020 at 6:36 AM

    about two months before i was born, my mother’s father was involved in a horrific car accident and died instantly. Because of the shock and unexpectantly of the situation (as well as having to see it replayed on the news) had a terrible effect on all of my family. A baby (me) was not really wanted anymore. Family would see me and cry, like i was cursed, so my mother was even more disconnected and traumatised. My mother went through extreme grief and the doctors had said the baby may be affected by the sudden surge of negative hormones and chemicals i was exposed to. Right from a baby, I was noticeably more anxious and clingy than others my age, and we have always suspected, as well as therapists that this might have been the cause for all my issues. so this is very interesting to know ahah.

  • Nomusa

    December 6th, 2020 at 6:25 AM

    I don’t know how am going to cope with all of this.I have a 2 year old son,I lost my patner, bestfriend and am 2months pregnant. I am forever alone in the house with my energetic son,am really struggling it’s only being a week since my Partner passed on. I am really not the type to open up to people let alone my family because they’re forever busy. This is the hardest experience I’ve came across,please help with how I can keep my mind busy and have a healthy pregnancy. God knows how much my patner and I wanted to have kids of our own.

  • Okanlawon

    April 28th, 2021 at 12:29 AM

    HI, Nomusa.
    I am sorry about your loss. I know it’s over some months now, but I know people never really get over the loss of loved ones.

    If you need to talk to a stranger sometimes, I might be available.

  • Arif

    December 15th, 2021 at 1:34 AM

    Good content you are having on this page loved to be a member of this page keep up the good work guyz, you are doing a great job for awareness.

  • Gail

    December 28th, 2021 at 9:27 PM


  • Raja

    January 17th, 2022 at 10:54 AM

    Good content and all the information regarding pregnancy is there in this blog very rich content you are having on this page loved to be a member of this page keep up the good work guyz, you are doing a great job for awareness.

  • Rache

    February 17th, 2022 at 1:57 PM

    I am almost 6 weeks pregnant and my grandmother passed this morning from dementia. I watched her fade for a year. My husband has been wonderful today hugging me and telling me it will be okay. I thought I had come to terms with it weeks ago but it is still hard for me. I was very close with her. She lived an amazing life and that is what I will choose to remember her as. I actually saw the life leave her but I knew it was coming. I will miss her dearly but I know she is in a better place.

  • Gail

    February 18th, 2022 at 7:35 PM

    Dear Rache,
    Losing anyone causes grief and I am very sorry to hear about you losing such a wonderful grandma. It is heartbreaking no matter who we lose. It is wonderful to hear that you are trying to look on the positive side when you remember her and the life she lead. I wish you all the best and continue to try to think positive and continue to think about that little baby coming as he/she is partly on the way because your grandma was here and the best way you can give her immense happiness is for you to forward your love on. With sympathy and love to you, sincerely Gail

  • Anastacia

    March 15th, 2022 at 8:25 AM

    I am 6 months pregnant and in the thick of grievance over the loss of my sweet Kirby just 3 months ago. It’s difficult to eat or sleep or even shower! A, little help to get me back to normality would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • Shammy

    August 5th, 2022 at 2:57 AM

    This was really insightful thank you

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