Matt Damon’s interview about George and Amal Clooney’s newly announced twin pregnancy got about as much attention as the pregnancy announcement itself. And the issue which received the most focus was the fact that George had told Matt about the pregnancy at only eight weeks gestation. Matt’s reaction was apparently incredulity that George had broken the “12 week rule,” in that you aren’t supposed to announce your pregnancy until you have completed 12 weeks. Matt reported that he told George to stop telling anyone for another four weeks. Only at 12 weeks did Matt feel confident that all was well.
How much does timing matter?
So, in this day and age, should you follow Matt’s advice? Not telling others until the end of the first trimester has been a longstanding tradition in pregnancy. But with the technology available today, is it still really necessary? Can we tell if a pregnancy is viable before 12 weeks? The answer is mostly yes. For example, women who conceived with the help of infertility treatment frequently get ultrasounds at 7-8 weeks gestation. If a normal sized fetus is visualized with a strong normal heartbeat, that pregnancy has more than a 90 percent chance of producing a baby. Most women get ultrasound scans around 11 weeks to check for any abnormalities. If the fetus is normal, the odds of the woman delivering a healthy baby go up even higher.
And the fact is, as soon as you find out you are pregnant, you have an approximately 75 percent chance of delivering a healthy baby, depending on your age. So if the odds are in your favor, why wait to tell?
The root of the problem
I think the issue lies with the shame and discomfort our society has about miscarriage. I have had hundreds of patients who have suffered a miscarriage. And almost all of them have told me that the reactions of others was one of the toughest parts of the experience. In fact, now when I see a patient who is either about to miscarry or just had one, I spend a fair amount of time preparing her for the comments and suggestions she will receive from others if she shares her sad news. So I do understand why so many people choose to tell no one of their pregnancy loss.
But if you don’t tell anyone about your loss, you are in effect cheating yourself out of the potential for comfort from friends and family. And I would bet that someone close to you has also suffered a loss, but didn’t tell you until now. I miscarried my second pregnancy at six weeks. I had told the world of the pregnancy pretty much the day I found out I was pregnant, we were so happy. And then I had to tell the world that I had suffered a loss. Which was hard. But it was far easier than having to tell people about a pregnancy loss in the same sentence when telling them I had been pregnant. What shocked me at the time was that friends literally came out of the woodwork to tell me of the losses they had experienced. One close friend told me of her loss at 16 weeks, and I never knew. I did get a few insensitive comments, but for the most part, I received love and support and shared tears.
The decision is up to you
During your first trimester, the decision about telling is of course totally up to you. Think carefully about who best might support you if in fact you suffer a loss. They might do a better job being there for you in the event of a loss if they knew that you were pregnant. Also be aware about people’s inability to keep a secret. You may love a family member, but know that she/he can’t contain any private information. That person might need to go lower on the list of telling, unless of course you are fine with others knowing.
Be aware that the 12 week rule doesn’t apply to everyone. It is an individual decision, and the power to tell is in your control. Make the best decision for you and your partner.