Everyone knows you should wait 12 weeks to tell your friends and family your good news, right?
But have you ever stopped to wonder why the magical number is 12 weeks?
Women who know they’re pregnant have a one-in-six chance of having a miscarriage… and the majority of miscarriages happen before the 12-week mark.
So then, it seems that the idea behind not telling people until 12 weeks is primarily designed to save the potential embarrassment of those who find out a woman has had a miscarriage. Because a women having to go through one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives with only their partner (if they have one) to support them is hardly ideal.
Niamh from Donegal shared her story of a lonely miscarriage with me:
“I was 11 weeks pregnant and I didn’t have any family of my own in the county. My husband and I were waiting to get to 12 weeks before telling anyone. When I had my miscarriage I was entirely alone as my husband was abroad.
“I was crying, in pain and cramping with all these different doctors and nurses and I just felt so alone. The next day I was in hospital and everyone around me was getting visitors and I had none. It really made me think about the 12 week thing differently. Like who was I protecting from having to possibly hear bad news? Everyone else! And meanwhile at my lowest ebb I was entirely alone.”
Like many women who miscarry the pain and distress of the actual miscarriage was compounded for Niamh by the stigma of having to let people know about the miscarriage when she hadn’t told people about the pregnancy prior to miscarrying.
“I had to tell my friends then that I had been pregnant but now I wasn’t, it was awkward and uncomfortable. I think it was actually worse than if I was just telling them about the miscarriage, as they now had two big things to get their head around.
“I’d never thought about why we’re told to wait 12 weeks before and after my experience I realised what an anti-woman idea it was, putting everyone else’s needs before my own.”
So much of the experience of being a woman, especially being a woman with children is putting other’s needs before your own. It’s desperately sad that at a most vulnerable time, after the loss of a longed-for baby women have to suffer without the support of their communities
Of course the timing of when someone decides to share their news should be entirely at the discretion of the person who is pregnant; however a more woman-centred approach to talking about pregnancy and miscarriage could only be a good thing.
And for that we’d need to stop putting other people’s potential discomfort before our own emotional well-being.
If you have been affected by the issues discussed in this piece you can get support from The Miscarriage Association of Ireland.