Physically, you will recover completely from a D&C or D&E in about two weeks. The bleeding should subside, your cycle will start up again, and the hormone-induced mood swings will even out. It will still take four to seven weeks to start a totally new cycle, and you should wait at least that long before trying again.
A birth takes considerably longer to recover from. You may have shaved areas that will grow out and itch or burn. You may have stitches that will be sore for a few weeks. This recovery is like any other post-partum. Check with your doctor in how long you must wait to try again. A general rule of thumb is that you must wait a cycle for every two months you were pregnant.
A natural miscarriage can take considerably longer. You may have to wait days or even a couple of weeks before the bleeding and cramping begin. (Don’t go more than two weeks without talking to your doctor about possibly getting a D&C. Studies show the longer you carry a lost pregnancy, the more likely you are to get seriously depressed, and the more likely you may have physical complications.) The actual miscarriage may only take a few days, or may drag out over several weeks.
For more information on the actual passage of tissue or how a D&C or D&E is handled, see descriptions of a natural miscarriage and a surgical intervention. Usually you will have to wait four to seven weeks for a new cycle to begin regardless of how the miscarriage happens, although a birth near term can delay your first period for several months. You should not try to conceive again during this time. For reasons why, see trying again.
The emotional recovery is another story altogether. One thing I will point out immediately is that your level of sadness is not at all tied to how far along you were. Everyone will be surprised by their emotions. Some will be near absolute despair and wish to join their baby. Some will be unpleasantly numb and feel nothing at all. Most will swing somewhere in the middle, seemingly okay one minute, then sobbing as if it were only yesterday. All the stages of grief will almost always be visited. Shock, numbness, denial, anger, guilt, depression, and finally resolution are all emotions you will experience. They do not come in order; some stages may go on for many weeks and others only a few hours. No two people grieve the same, as you will quickly see when your partner does not react the same way as you do. Don’t expect that you will “get over it” in a few weeks or even months. Don’t assume that getting pregnant again will turn everything around. Don’t give yourself a timetable. Just let the emotions come and go and try to keep your life going.
So, you ask, when WILL I feel better? In some ways, you never will. The complete innocence and pure joy of pregnancy will not come back. But you will feel better than you do right now. Your life will go on, you will try again, and you will survive. There is much more to happen in your life. You have to keep going to see what it is. Only when you look back on where you were will you see that you do indeed feel a little bit better. There are many sections on this web site about emotional recovery, grieving, and memorializing your baby. Find them in the How to Cope section.
There are five distinct stages of recovery: