11th July 2018
Thanks to a potent mix of medical advice and societal norms, the vast majority of expectant mother’s tend to keep, well, ‘mum’ about their exciting news until the 3 month mark. Granted, we have come a long way since the days women were hidden away for the majority of their pregnancy, but the first trimester is still often shrouded in more secrecy than an MI5 mission.
The advice to wait to announce your pregnancy until after your 12 week scan is based on very simple medical statistics. It is thought that 1 in 4 pregnancies result in miscarriage and the vast majority of these occur in the first 3 months. Once a healthy heartbeat has been confirmed by your doctor at this crucial juncture, the risk of miscarriage dramatically decreases.
But what if this advice, given with the best intentions of protecting women from heartache, is actually causing more harm than good?
For those women who experience early miscarriage, they often only have their partner – who will also be struggling – to turn to for support. Whilst it can be heartbreaking to have to explain to loved ones that you have lost the baby you had all been so excited to meet, having to detail how you had secretly been pregnant, but no longer were, can be an even harder experience.
With so many women suffering in silence, it perpetuates the problem of miscarriage being a taboo subject, which in turn leads to a lack of education and understanding from society. Those dealing with miscarriage need not only the love and understanding of their circle of trust, but the knowledge that they are not alone. By encouraging women to face this alone , we are reducing their access to a wealth of support they so desperately need.
Even if everything is progressing well with your pregnancy, the first trimester can often be the hardest to cope with, both physically and emotionally. Morning sickness tends to be at its peak during this period, and the sudden change in hormones flooding the body can leave women feeling understandably overwhelmed. With so many changes happening, lying to friends about why you’ve incredulously gone off rosé, or trying to hide your growing tummy in yet another tent-esque dress, can be an added anxiety that you simply don’t need at an already stressful time.
Work is sometimes another key factor in a woman’s decision to endure ‘the silent trimester’. With worrying statistics indicating that 1 in 5 women experience harassment related to pregnancy or motherhood, it is understandable why some expectant mothers may feel they cannot share their news in a work environment
However, this is a trend we must change. The covert operation of concealing pregnancy, and all that comes with it – fatigue, sickness, increased trips to both the GP and the toilet – can cause as much stress as the symptoms themselves. An understanding friend or a colleague can be a crucial ally when trying to navigate the early stages of pregnancy.
Aside from the emotional support, there are other practical advantages to talking openly about your pregnancy. In a work context, there is legislation in place that means employers have a specific duty of care to pregnant members of their team, and this comes in to effect as soon as you inform them. It also means the opportunity to plan your handover with as much transparency as you like, which can help you plan ahead and relieve stress
We know that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, yet it is still taboo and there is a lack of open conversation. But if it was a social norm to announce your pregnancy when you first found out, it could promote more conversations about miscarriage and break the silence. Sharing experiences can provide much needed support, and help others going through the same experience understand they are not alone.
There is no wrong or right way to handle the initial stages of pregnancy, but you should make your decision based on what you, or you and your partner feel is best for you – and not what social norms or outdated traditions are telling you to do. The three month mark will always represent an important milestone for expectant parents, but that shouldn’t mean you have to isolate yourself until that point. Whether you are facing a tricky first trimester, or dealing with loss, you are never alone, and you never have to deal with it in silence.