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What Is a Rainbow Baby?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

A rainbow baby is a term for a baby that’s born after the parents have a pregnancy loss. The name draws on the symbol of the rainbow, representing beauty after a dark time.  

Nearly one in four pregnancies ends in loss. That could be a miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, or blighted ovum. Parents who are pregnant again after a loss might go through a wide range of emotions like grief, joy, confusion, sadness, and anxiety. 

Grieving a Loss

It’s important to take time to grieve after the loss of a child and to understand the grieving process. Grief is a very personal and complex emotion. Even if you're anticipating a joyful new arrival, you can still mourn for the baby you lost.

Some steps may help you through the grieving process:

Create memories of your baby. This could mean planting a garden or tree in honor of your child, making a box of memories, or talking about your loss with your other children. Some hospitals offer to make hand and footprints of your baby as a keepsake, take pictures, or give them a christening or other religious acts.

Talk with others who have been there. This could mean joining a grief group, talking with people you know who have lost a baby, or even just talking with your spouse. This helps you realize that you’re not alone and could bring a measure of comfort.

Communicate with your partner. We all deal with grief differently, and during this time, our emotions can be everywhere at once. Talk to your partner about how they’re feeling and communicate throughout the pregnancy about your wishes and worries.

Expecting a Rainbow Baby

Most women who lose a baby will get pregnant again. Your body takes time to heal, but it’s your mental state that will often take the longest to recover.

Expecting again can raise a slew of conflicting emotions like guilt, relief, excitement, and sadness. You can go through every emotion, grieve the way you want to grieve, and celebrate this new pregnancy however you like. You might want to keep it to yourself until your pregnancy becomes visible, and that’s OK, too.

Take care of yourself and your new baby by making sure you’re getting the right nutrition. This includes:

Vitamins. Vitamins and minerals will help make sure your rainbow baby is developing the way they should. Folic acid is particularly important, since every cell in your body requires it to develop. Experts recommend 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. 

Regular checkups. This will offer some peace of mind that your pregnancy is on the right track.

A healthy weight and proper diet. Talk to your doctor about how you can keep a healthy weight during pregnancy. Often, rainbow babies come with the help of fertility treatments, which can make you gain or lose weight. Staying active brings mental benefits, which can help you cope with anxiety and work through emotions.

Avoiding smoking or drugs. Reach out to your doctor if you need help.

Managing Anxiety During Pregnancy

Women who go through pregnancy loss are at a higher risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. You might have anxiety about losing this baby, too.

Some tools and strategies can help ease your mind:

  • Remember that this pregnancy isn’t the same as your last one. Just because you lost your other baby doesn’t mean you’ll lose this one, too.
  • Manage stress. Avoid stressors from your life during this special time. If you work, talk to your boss about how you can delegate some responsibilities to reduce stress.
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor about your fears. Often, talking openly can help us manage fears and anxiety by eliminating what-if scenarios.
  • Try meditation. Mindful meditation allows you to focus on the present without judgment. Meditation has been shown to improve depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Think about what you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude makes us happier. Recognizing all the good in your life, even outside of this new pregnancy, can lead to more satisfaction and help build stronger relationships.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Gazette: “When science meets mindfulness.”

Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing: “Giving thanks can make you happier.”

March of Dimes: “Thinking About Pregnancy After the Death of Your Baby.”

Mayo Clinic: “Pregnancy loss: How to cope.”

Pregnancy Birth & Baby: “If things go wrong.”

Pregnancy Loss: Recommendations for Primary Care Providers.”

The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders: “Depression and Anxiety Following Early

Psychology Today: “Life After Pregnancy Loss: Finding Your Rainbow.”

Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Homepage.

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