Mothers-to-be are often advised to keep their pregnancies quiet until around the 12-week scan, when the chances of miscarriage become lower. But Annie Ridout disagrees with this. Here’s why…
When I became pregnant with my first child, I quite liked having an exciting little secret. I felt sprightly and joyful. Well, until around the eight-week mark, when I started throwing up for three hours every morning and couldn’t get into work.
At that point, I had to tell my boss. She was hugely supportive – it helped that she was also in early pregnancy – and let me work from home. We told close family but I waited until my 12-week scan to tell friends.
My colleagues had been worried about me, as they didn’t know why I was suddenly not able to work from the office. So when I revealed the news of my pregnancy, a month later, they were relieved.
As it was my first baby, I went with the general ‘rules’. As well as the first-trimester-secrecy rule, I was strict about what I ate and drank. I never slept on my back. Boxes would be left un-lifted.
Two years later, when I was nine weeks pregnant with my son, we had a film screening at our house and I told close friends. I wasn’t drinking, which never happens, so it was fairly obvious anyway.
But also, I wanted for them to share in our exciting news, and to understand why I was tired and nauseous. It would have felt quite strange keeping this secret. I waited until my scan before discussing the pregnancy online.
I’m now pregnant with my third baby. This time, the nausea started within a week of conception. I thought I had some kind of strange illness or allergy and started making appointments with the doctor and an Ayurveda consultant.
The news that I wasn’t ill and was in fact pregnant delighted me and I started telling close friends and family right away. There were some strange reactions, like: ‘really, a third child?’ but also support, which is what I needed.
But older generations seem to be a little stuck in their ways when it comes to pregnancy announcements and advise you to refrain from sharing until you’ve hit the magical 12-week mark. The thing is, it’s my body and my news.
I know that the chance of miscarriage is higher in the first trimester – it’s around 21.3% at five weeks and reduces to 2-4% in the second half of the first trimester – but there’s always a greater chance of not miscarrying.
And also, all this secrecy can become tangled up with shame. It can feel as if a new pregnancy is something to be embarrassed about, when you’re not allowed to reveal it to the world just in case.
This involves hiding your growing belly, especially in subsequent pregnancies, when – in my experience – the bump begins protruding much sooner (especially if it never went quite back to ‘flat’ in the first place).
There’s also potentially near-constant nausea – mine’s just starting to ease off at 11 weeks, but it’s been loitering all day and night for weeks – and the sheer exhaustion of the early weeks. All that is supposed to be kept secret.
And it feels like miscarriage is being framed as a shameful thing, too.
Someone said on Instagram, when I wrote about this, that it’s as if we’re supposed to protect people from having to deal with the pain of our loss, if the pregnancy ends. This was an interesting stance, and possibly part of it.
For women who go through the trauma of losing a wanted baby, having close friends and family knowing what you’re going through might help. It depends on the woman: for some, it’s very private, while others may want to open up.
Either way, it should be the mother who chooses, not cultural traditions or feeling we should adhere to societal expectations. The baby, in utero, belongs to the woman’s body; it’s part of her.
There should be no outside opinions on who she tells about it, or not.
Next week I’ll have my 12-week scan. Hopefully everything will be fine and those who thought I should keep it secret until then can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
But until then, I’ll continue to feel optimistic that this pregnancy will go to plan, because there’s enough to worry about right now – my two older kids, earning enough money, getting enough sleep – without expecting the worst.
When did you decide to share the news of your pregnancy?