The Gina Monologues: On the “12 Week Rule”

As a pregnant woman, the rules change. There are more of them, they come rattled off unsolicited from strangers, they are passed down from the women in your family as tradition, like an heirloom. Stop eating soft cheese, “are you really still going for runs?”, take your vitamins! An imaginary rule book falls square into your lap and it begins with the 12-week rule.

Regardless of when you’ve found out you’re pregnant, it’s generally advised to wait at least 12 weeks before announcing that you’re expecting. Past that, the pregnancy is considered safer; you’ve cleared the scary, murky waters of the first trimester (during which reportedly 80% of miscarriages occur.)

While I respect the secrecy of the first trimester, I’m an advocate for those who choose to disclose sooner, before the 12 weeks pass, at the very the moment they feel they want to. I don’t believe women should feel the need to shield against potential shame or embarrassment by keeping such amazing news a secret. It’s important to me to remove the stigma surrounding miscarriages, to help others shed that fear, and to normalize pregnancy loss as a women’s issue.

Although 50% of Ovia community users do in fact report announcing before 12 weeks, there are still a large number of women shrouded in worry during their first trimester. “I waited until after 18 weeks.. I’m very private and superstitious,” said one woman, with many other echoing the same sentiment. “I’m waiting because I had a previous miscarriage.. don’t wanna jinx it,” said another. I for one never thought I would wait.

But then I did. I told my immediate family and closest friends as soon as I knew — the pee was still fresh on the stick. But as for other friends and colleagues, I waited the 12 weeks. My husband didn’t feel comfortable disclosing yet; he diligently checked the risk of miscarriage rate week by week until it fell into a range he thought was safe. Several sources allege that that the first two weeks carry the highest risk at 75%, then fall to 10% at 3-6 weeks, 5% at 6-12 weeks and 3% at 12-20 weeks.

I was adhering to a rule I had admonished. It was out of love and respect for what my husband wanted, but it was difficult for me. The first person outside of my inner circle to know was my dentist. My dentist. Moreover, it was physically demanding to hold this secret in. At work, I dealt with the hallmark first trimester sickness in secrecy. It was an isolating experience and a huge relief when I was finally able to announce to my colleagues.

Having personally consoled hundreds of women who have experienced pregnancy loss through our customer support, I understand that miscarriage is a shattering experience. Some approach it calmly, affected but not devastated, while others feel an unbearable pain. It’s understandable to want to keep the experience private, but I knew that were it to happen to me, I would want the love and support of my family and friends.

Ultimately, I’ll always feel it’s the woman’s choice to decide whether she’ll follow the 12 week rule. But this decision shouldn’t be influenced by fear or shame: having to announce a loss after announcing a pregnancy doesn’t make anyone any less of a mother or a woman. Women should be empowered, feel comfortable and safe in discussing pregnancy loss, and be well supported if it happens. I believe celebrating your happiness and excitement in secrecy today won’t make it any easier if the worst happens tomorrow. In which case, love and support from family and friends can give you the strength to move forward.

What are your thoughts? Did you follow the 12-week rule? Tell us why or why not in the comments!