"What Is a Rainbow Baby?"

rainbow baby

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What's a Rainbow Baby?

A rainbow is a term for a baby that has been born after a mother has experienced a pregnancy loss. A pregnancy loss could be a miscarriage or a stillbirth (which is typically defined as a baby that has passed away after 20 weeks). The baby that the parents have after the prior pregnancy that was lost is called a rainbow baby. Just like the light of a rainbow only appears after the darkness of a rainy sky, a rainbow baby happens after the pain of a loss.

Any baby that is born after a loss can be considered a rainbow baby, so some families may have several rainbow babies if they have experienced different losses.

What to Expect Emotionally

If you are pregnant with a rainbow baby, you will probably experience a lot of different emotions. Many women will have fear and anxiety during their pregnancies after a loss, and worry that they will have another miscarriage or that something may be wrong with the baby.

Talking with a doctor who knows your history and asking for certain accommodations, such as working with an ultrasound tech who will be sensitive to your fears, can be helpful. Many doctors and hospitals and training programs are now making an extra effort to be sensitive to the unique needs and experiences of a woman going through pregnancy after loss and there are accommodations that can be made to help you through it in the most supportive way possible.

Some women may choose not to disclose their pregnancies to avoid difficult conversations. Other women may want to let their family and friends know early on in their pregnancy for emotional support throughout the journey. Every woman is different—and what you tell others about your pregnancy is entirely up to you.

Becoming pregnant after a loss can trigger some hard emotions. Talking with a trained therapist can help you manage anxiety and stress throughout the process. Speak with your OB provider about a referral if you are having difficulty coping or managing your emotions during your pregnancy.

There are also many wonderful organizations, both online and in-person, dedicated to helping women navigate pregnancy after loss, such as Pregnancy After Loss Support or Dr. Jessica Zucker's "I Had A Miscarriage" website.

How to Support a Friend

If you have a friend who is expecting a rainbow baby, you may be wondering how to best support her throughout her pregnancy. There are many ways you can show your friend that you support her and care about her. Some women may worry that if they have never had a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, that they should avoid reaching out to a woman who is expecting a rainbow baby, but that is not the case.

Don't worry about feeling awkward or uncomfortable talking to your friend about her pregnancy. Instead, ask her how she is feeling and what are some ways she would feel supported. You may purchase a gift that honors her rainbow baby, such as a rainbow wrap or a rainbow-themed baby card. It may also be thoughtful to gift her with something that could pamper her during her pregnancy and help her de-stress, such as a prenatal massage or a pedicure.

Or find a photographer that specializes in rainbow baby photo shoots for a special surprise after the baby is born. Photographers who are sensitive to the experiences of families with rainbow babies are skilled in honoring the families' memories of their loss in ways that are meaningful to them, while still celebrating the love and beauty of a rainbow baby.

Most of all, however, don't be afraid to be there for your friend—visit, call, or text, and let her know that you are thinking of her.

How to Support Your Partner

If your partner is the one who has gone through a loss and is now pregnant with a rainbow baby, it's important to maintain an open line of communication throughout the pregnancy. The loss was still yours, too, and it's healthy to discuss how the loss of the pregnancy may have affected you—and how you are feeling now.

The best thing you can do is express your feelings and ask how your partner would like you to help her feel supported as well. There is no right or wrong way to have a rainbow pregnancy and baby, but by talking about your feelings and checking in to make sure you both feel supported, it can be a positive experience for both of you.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is stillbirth? Updated August 29, 2019.

  2. Nynas J, Narang P, Kolikonda MK, Lippmann S. Depression and Anxiety Following Early Pregnancy Loss: Recommendations for Primary Care Providers. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015;17(1). doi:10.4088/PCC.14r01721

  3. Miller EJ, Temple-Smith MJ, Bilardi JE. 'There was just no-one there to acknowledge that it happened to me as well': A qualitative study of male partner's experience of miscarriage. PLoS ONE. 2019;14(5):e0217395. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0217395