If there’s one thing that marks out pregnancy as a “special” time in your life it’s the discovery that you are supposed to obey a lot of rules. Rule upon rule, upon rule.
Many of them are practical and important. And backed by rigorous research about best outcomes for babies and parents. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t take drugs.
Other rules are meant to helpful but are their importance is often overstated. Don’t go near soft cheese, don’t have hot baths, don’t drink coffee (or tea!). And my favourite – don’t pick up a cat (because toxoplasmosis).
And then there are the rules that have no grounding in the health of your unborn child – they just exist to make society more comfortable about uncomfortable things.
Like the 12 week rule.
This is the rule that says you should not announce your pregnancy until you are past 12 weeks because miscarriage is most common in these weeks – and the last thing you want to do is tell people you are no longer having a baby after you have announced your happy news.
Because you are not just announcing you are no longer pregnant. You are announcing a miscarriage. And with miscarriage comes all sorts of taboos and silence. It’s a subject that for many years has been off limits, an experience that women endured in silence because it was too uncomfortable to discuss.
Of course I can understand if a woman wants to stick with the 12 week rule. It’s her body. Her pregnancy. Her life. And her choice. Many people wouldn’t want to talk about a miscarriage with their workmates or friends or acquaintances or their Facebook group.
For them it is easier to wait until they are past the most dangerous period, when statistically your pregnancy is more likely to fail. As many as one in three pregnancies self-terminate in the early weeks of pregnancy. This figure is slightly inflated in that many women miscarry before they even know they are pregnant. About one in five women miscarry after a positive pregnancy test before 12 weeks. These account for the majority of miscarriages.
Watch Sophie Cachia (AKA The Young Mummy) announce her pregnancy to family members. Post continues after video…
But what of the many people who feel silently pressured to adhere to the 12 week “rule” even though they don’t feel a miscarriage is something that should be hidden? Those people may feel that if the worst did happen, they might like to tell people why they were feeling so sad rather than try to pretend through such a difficult period of their life.
And so it was a relief when popular blogger The Young Mummy announced to Mamamia readers she was pregnant – when she was only nine weeks along.
She wrote: “I was recently brought to tears by a dear friend of mine; a girl I’d easily call one of my best friends. She was the first person – even before my husband – to know that I was pregnant (live streaming on Snapchat so she could reassure me there was a second line) and I confided in her about my crazy idea to announce my pregnancy to the world earlier than the ‘norm’.
She said, “YES! My family and friends all knew I was pregnant as soon as I pissed on the stick because of the shitty time I went through alone the two miscarriages before.
“I suppose, having been through it twice now, I told everyone I was pregnant very early purely because of the support I NEEDED. It’s fucking lonely and it’s heartbreaking… trying to pretend you were never pregnant.”
See what the Young Mummy gets up to because it’s beautiful, real and hilarious. Images via Instagram. Post continues after gallery…
We are now mature enough as a society to recognise miscarriage should be open to discussion… if that is what you want.
It’s also worth remembering the early weeks of pregnancy can be a difficult time for women. Morning sickness can be debilitating and the fatigue can be unbearable. And yet just when you need a little leeway at work or forgiveness from a friend for not being on your game at a party, instead you are supposed to say nothing at all.
For women to be empowered they shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed about something and told to keep it to themselves just because the subject is difficult for others either. The whole 12 week rule, while bound in the cloak of trying to make women feel better about themselves, has the unfortunate stink of something made up to make everyone else feel better.
Miscarriage is a confronting subject. No doubt it is easier for everyone if we never have to discuss it at all. But that’s not life and that’s not where we want to be as an enlightened society.
Let’s be done with the 12 week rule and make it more of a choice and less of a whispered imposition that women should keep their happy news secret for so long.
You can follow Kate De Brito on Facebook here.