Coming to Terms with the Highs and Lows of a Rainbow Baby Pregnancy

A baby's hand lays on top of white wool with a rainbow in hand with the colors red, dark orange, light orange, lime green, light blue, dark blue, violet, and light purple with a white cloud on the bottom right of the rainbow

The effervescent Dolly Parton once said, “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.” While she probably wasn’t thinking about having a baby after a miscarriage or loss when she said this, it’s incredible how much the quote applies to a rainbow baby pregnancy.

Becoming pregnant with a rainbow baby could well be the textbook definition of a bittersweet experience.

Despite your excitement for the baby to come, you’re probably still mourning the little one(s) you’ve lost along the way. 

After all, there’s no greater reminder of the child that could have been than preparing for a future without them in it. 

And while many parents feel excitement about a rainbow pregnancy, many worry about the future of this baby, as well. It’s common for loss parents to experience anxiety during pregnancy after loss, and this is one of the reasons that some families don’t identify with the phrase rainbow baby at all. 

A rainbow baby pregnancy is bound to come with a plethora of emotions. From excitement to fear to guilt and more, there is no right way to feel when you have a new baby on the way after suffering a loss. 

We’re here to walk it with you, friend. Our team grew out of a loss mom’s desire to help others like her, and we have plenty of experience walking the pregnancy after loss journey and supporting others through it. We’re here to share what you need to know with you.

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Rainbow Baby Meaning: What is It?

In 2008, an author named Christie Brooks published a collection of stories called Our Heartbreaking Choices: Forty-Six Women Share Their Stories of Interrupting a Much Wanted Pregnancy.” In one of these stories, the term “rainbow baby” was used for what’s thought to be the first time to describe a baby after miscarriage

Basically, a rainbow baby is any little one who comes after a devastating loss. This term most commonly refers to pregnancy after miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, termination for medical reasons (TFMR), stillbirth, or infant loss.

The common explanation is that a rainbow baby is the calm after the storm. Despite the devastation of losing the little ones who’ve come before, it’s still possible for the clouds to open up and bring a bit of sunshine and color back into your days, even while you honor and love the babies you’ve lost. 

But pregnancy after loss rarely feels calm, and having a baby never does, so we’re here to prepare you for that aspect of your rainbow pregnancy as well. 

Does Everyone Refer to Babies Born After Loss as Rainbow Babies?

While many hopeful parents find comfort in the idea of a rainbow baby pregnancy, there’s no rule stating you have to use the phrase to describe your baby after a miscarriage. 

In fact, some parents find the term to be problematic. 

In an interview with The Today Show, a woman named Teresa Mendoza admitted her distaste for the phrase. Her opinion is that it can portray lost pregnancies and infants as an adverse event in a person’s life. 

In the same article from Today, another mom, Meg Konig, said this about the loss of her daughter, Hope:

Hope was not “a kind of tumultuous event that we had to overcome. We want to remember her, herself, as the rainbow.”

And there are plenty of other reasons parents choose not to use the term “rainbow” to discuss their child after loss. During pregnancy, many parents fear the pregnancy won’t work out, so imaging the pregnancy as the “reward” or “calm” when the experience is terrifying simply doesn’t work.

Others feel the term “rainbow baby” places undue stress on the child to live up to certain expectations, or to heal their parents’ grief. 

Some simply don’t resonate with the phrase. 

If calling your pregnancy a “rainbow baby pregnancy” doesn’t feel right to you, there’s no rule stating you have to do it. You have every right to view your children and pregnancies in whatever manner you choose.

Woman with shoulder length dark brown hair laying on a bed with eyes closed and left hand on head with right hand on her pregnant belly wearing a white tank top and grey lounge pants
Overcome with excitement and worry over your rainbow baby pregnancy? If so, you aren’t alone. We’re sharing tips for getting through the highs and lows.

Will You Experience Different Symptoms When You Get Pregnant with a Baby After Miscarriage?

Pregnancy and infant loss comes with a daunting array of emotions. Among the most disheartening, though, are fear and guilt.

Guilt that you didn’t realize something was strange from the beginning with previous pregnancy.

Guilt that you did something “wrong” before. (YOU DIDN’T!)

Guilt that you didn’t know what to expect when miscarrying

Fear that it will happen again.

First thing’s first – while it can be hard to let go of those negative feelings when you’re coping with miscarriage, no, there’s nothing you could have done to keep from losing your pregnancy.

In most circumstances, miscarriages happen because a baby isn’t developing correctly. In approximately 50% of cases, extra or missing chromosomes are the cause. There’s nothing anyone can do about this.

But when you’ve experienced such negative emotions, as are common even though we know your loss(es) weren’t your fault, a new pregnancy doesn’t allow our minds to shift to suddenly experiencing only joy.  

Instead, many loss moms experience tremendous amounts of fear during a new pregnancy. 

You might find yourself experiencing a desire to ensure you’re doing everything “right.” Perhaps you search for signs this pregnancy is different – especially if you worry you missed a red flag before your previous miscarriages. 

But no matter how this pregnancy goes, those early signs of pregnancy in the first two weeks will remain the same. We often obsess over symptoms and whether one pregnancy is different from another, but the fact is that each pregnancy is different, whether it ends in a live birth or not. 

Are you wondering what types of unusual early pregnancy signs you might experience? Here’s a list of the most common side effects within our community:

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Questions for Your OB When You’re Having a Rainbow Baby

When you’re having a baby after miscarriage, you’ll likely have a tornado of questions buzzing around your head. When you make your first appointment with your OB, bring a list of those questions with you, so you don’t forget anything.

Here are questions to consider asking:

“Will it happen again?” is one of the most common questions doctors hear when women are pregnant with a baby after miscarriage. If this concern sounds familiar, it couldn’t hurt to ask your doctor about your risk factors for recurrent miscarriages

Just be specific with this question. We can tell you that the chances of another loss are low, which is what your doctor will also tell you. But asking about your specific situation and risk factors may help you feel supported. 

  • Do I need to do anything differently?

If there was a particular cause for your previous miscarriage, it’s always a good idea to find out if there’s something you should, or should not, be doing during your rainbow baby pregnancy to prevent recurrence.

Let us be clear–this does not mean that your loss was your fault. But if testing has revealed a potential issue that increases your risk of loss–such as a blood clotting factor or thyroid disorder–then medicating appropriately is still a good idea. 

  • Is there additional testing I should get?

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like a significant portion of any pregnancy is peeing in cups, looking for alternatives to the glucose test, and getting your blood drawn? Well, that’s because doctors have to test for quite a few things to make sure your little bun is baking nicely in its oven.

When you’re in the midst of pregnancy after miscarriage, it’s possible your doctor will request more tests than usual. But typically, loss parents will be treated just like any other pregnant patient–sometimes to the frustration of those parents!

If you do experience multiple losses, we recommend asking for recurrent miscarriage testing–but not during a current pregnancy. 

  • Should I be seeing a counselor?

If you’re having a tough time during this new pregnancy, mention it to your doctor. They might be able to suggest a trustworthy counselor or miscarriage support group that can help you during this bittersweet time.  

Our opinion is that counseling can always support you, and it can be especially helpful during pregnancy after loss.

If you’re in the US or Canada, we recommend using Postpartum Support International’s Provider Directory to find a good therapist. While the term “postpartum” in the title might make this site sound like it’s not the best fit, they work specifically with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists who specialize in perinatal health, which includes both pregnancy and loss. 

Woman with black hair in a braid with an orange gingham shirt pulled up over her pregnant belly looking down at a woman with very short blonde hair wearing a blue and white striped shirt with hands on the other woman's belly kissing it
Becoming pregnant with a rainbow baby can come with many highs and lows. We’re sharing our tips for managing those feelings.

Overcoming Your Anxiety During a Rainbow Baby Pregnancy

Experiencing anxiety after you’ve suffered loss is common, albeit extremely frustrating. 

Approximately 20% of women who experience pregnancy loss will also struggle with anxiety or depression, and that number only represents clinically diagnosed cases. In reality, and based on our experience, that number is likely significantly higher. 

For many of these people, anxiety will follow them into their subsequent pregnancy.

If you’re worried about your mental health during your rainbow baby pregnancy, the most crucial step to take is speaking with your doctor. They can help you create a plan to overcome your struggles with pregnancy anxiety after miscarriage.

One reason we strongly recommend finding a care provider through Postpartum Support International is that most OBGYNs and midwives are not trained in mental healthcare. Many do have local resources and we suggest asking, but we often hear from loss parents how dismissed they feel by their providers when they express their concerns. 

This is why we recommend finding a good therapist whenever possible and searching for counseling with someone specifically trained to deal with perinatal patients. 

If you’re looking for ways to get support that are free or less expensive than therapy (an especially great option in addition to therapy), there are a few other things you can do to help conquer your anxious feelings throughout pregnancy:

  • Download our worry-free pregnancy guide to work your way through your emotions using techniques our founder, Katy, developed in conjunction with her therapist as she worked through her own pregnancy after loss experiences
  • Join us in Undefining Pregnancy, where a special pregnancy after loss section allows loss moms to come together, support each other, and find resources to help them through this new pregnancy experience
  • Make an appointment for acupuncture with a certified practitioner 
  • Practice yoga or meditation 
  • Start a gentle exercise routine a few times a week
  • Research local or online miscarriage support groups and attend some meetings
  • Create a miscarriage memorial to help you cope with lingering miscarriage grief

Rainbow Baby Quotes for Support and Celebration

Whether you’re trying to explain the meaning of the term “rainbow baby” to a friend, or you’re looking to create a rainbow baby announcement, finding the right words isn’t always easy.

Different ideas will resonate with different people, but our community often tells us these are some of the most helpful rainbow baby quotes:

  • “Rainbows remind us that even after the darkest clouds, and the fiercest winds, there is still beauty.” – Katrina Mayer
  • “You are the rainbow that adds colors to my gray skies.” – Avijeet Das
  • “You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”

Overcoming Loss While Looking Towards the Future of Your Family

Having a baby after miscarriage will not only fill you up with the most exhilarating joy, but it can also bring hard memories back to the surface. 

It’s essential to find a balance between celebration and commemoration throughout your experience. Look towards the wonderful life you’ll be having with your new baby while paying respect to any little ones who came before.

A rainbow baby pregnancy is an unusual and challenging experience. There’s no right way to feel, only emotions to honor as you go.

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How did you feel during your rainbow baby pregnancy?