Content warning: This article contains subject matter surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
One of the big first trimester questions - when should I tell people I’m pregnant?
I’m currently 14 weeks pregnant and anxiously waiting for those lovely first trimester symptoms to ease. Its been about 10 weeks of nausea and complete exhaustion. There is no glow here. If I’m being honest, I don’t enjoy being pregnant, and I’m not good at it. Particularly, the secret-keeping part. With my symptoms, this pregnancy has been written all over my face since about 5 weeks.
Not only do the early days bring all these unpleasant physical symptoms, it’s also the time many people are the most excited about their pregnancy. But should you bite your tongue instead of shouting it from the rooftops? Women are often told that they should wait to announce they are pregnant until after 12 weeks. But why? Would you rather shout your news from the rooftops or keep it a secret for a while?
Mostly, the 12-week rule is based on the premise that after the first trimester, risk of miscarriage drops significantly. The idea being that by keeping it secret if, god forbid, you lose your pregnancy, it will be easier emotionally to not have to tell everyone about your loss. In my experience, this couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Content Warning: The following paragraphs contain details surrounding my personal experience with early miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
My first pregnancy, stopped developing at around 5 weeks. We had told our immediate families but no one else. We were very excited, and due to my irregular cycle, not concerned when our dating seemed off at the initial ultrasound. 3 weeks later, however, when we returned and there was no growth, we were devastated.
I felt the loss deeply, but thankfully I had my husband there for emotional support. I was also grateful to have a doctor who was very reassuring and made me feel safe and comfortable throughout the process. It was painful calling our parents and siblings to tell them what had happened, but that certainly wasn’t the most painful part of the experience.
Asking if Someone is Pregnant
The hardest moment following that loss was a couple of days later. My spouse and I went to a friend’s for a game night in the hopes of getting some ‘normal’ back. A well-meaning friend there asked us “so when are you guys going to start having kids?” and I was gutted.
Faking a laugh we said something like, “Oh, eventually.” But it was incredibly difficult, feeling like I couldn’t share our loss after the fact and having to pretend nothing had happened. Not wanting to make friends uncomfortable, when I was deeply uncomfortable.
That's when I realized the 12-week rule wasn’t really for me. It felt like a secret designed to protect other people. When I got pregnant again a few months later, we told a larger circle more quickly.
With my current pregnancy, we announced publicly very early. This got some odd reactions of its own. People crossing their fingers when they heard I was 7 weeks, and even some “oh you’re barely pregnant” comments. But it felt right. Good or bad, I didn’t want to hide.
The Problem with the 12 Week Rule
I think the problem with the 12-week rule comes from two places.
First, too many people treat family planning like the weather and act as though its a normal thing to use as small talk. Personally, if we aren’t close enough for me to have already chosen to share with you, you probably shouldn’t be asking me about when I’m going to ditch the contraceptives or start trying to conceive. Its deeply personal. You never know what someone else is experiencing. Maybe I am already trying to conceive, or I’m suffering a loss, or have no intentions of having children at all. Its deeply personal and I don’t understand why acquaintances feel so comfortable asking.
This pregnancy, my husband and I decided to take control back and embrace our excitement, even in the face of others’ discomfort. When folks would ask “when is number 2 coming along?” we would without missing a beat, flatly answer “July”. It's amazing how many people felt comfortable enough to ask but then embarrassed that they had “made us spill the beans”.
Second, early pregnancy loss is incredibly common, but not often talked about. That's why it was important to me to be vulnerable and normalize announcing early. The twelve-week rule is not for me, because I don’t want to hide my grief ever again. The concept that it should be private attached a feeling of shame to our loss that we didn’t deserve and I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I felt very lonely going through our loss in secret. My hope is that in the future, women feel supported and connected on their journeys of trying to conceive. I think we can achieve this by being vulnerable, and I hope to inspire other women to share their experiences. It takes courage at first, but by normalizing these common challenges, I hope no woman has to feel alone when going through a loss.
Of course, when and how you announce your pregnancy depends on your own preferences on privacy and should be discussed with your co-parent.
How to Decide When to Announce you are Pregnant
When making your decision, you should consider not just when the risk of miscarriage decreases but also ask yourself these questions:
- If I do have a miscarriage, will it be easier for me to have support, or keep things private?
- Who are the most supportive people around me?
- Are there specific people I can share with for support?
- What is my job’s maternity leave policy?
- Do I feel safe telling my supervisor, in case I need time off during the difficult first trimester?
- How does my partner feel about when and how to tell people?
Every person is different, and that's why I feel we need to ditch the 12-week rule and do what feels right for us as women and support each other along the way. Being vulnerable and sharing our stories can be tough, but if we have the courage to be authentic with each other, we can be leaders ensuring no woman struggles alone.
Do you think it's time we ditch the 12 week rule? Share down below!