The twelve-week rule?
There is a common myth amongst many pregnant couples that the so called 12-week rule must be adhered to when announcing a new pregnancy. This means that a couple should keep their pregnancy a secret until they get to the 12 week or three-month mark – the point where a pregnancy announcement is viewed as ‘safe’.
More couples however are choosing to dismiss this tradition as they feel it is forcing them into secrecy during what is often the most difficult trimester of the pregnancy. If pregnancy loss occurs, as we know happens in one in four pregnancies, the isolation is exacerbated.
There is a cruel irony in this unwritten social rule as while it is intended to save couples from telling then ‘untelling’ people about their pregnancy, 80% of miscarriages occur before the 12-week mark of pregnancy. If a couple have not told people around them that they are pregnant then go on to miscarry, there is no support and the couple are alone in their grief.
The ’12-week rule’ is not coming from doctors but has evolved out of the 12-week scan that confirms viability and can detect some abnormalities. We know that pregnancy can be deemed medically safe earlier than 12 weeks.
Australian research shows that the risk of miscarriage is 9.4% at six weeks, 4.2% at seven weeks, 1.5% at eight weeks and from then the risk drops to below 1%.
We know that society does not handle grief and loss well and many couples have received unsympathetic reactions to the news of their miscarriage as many people fail to understand the magnitude of the loss. Research shows that grief and loss after a miscarriage can be for many as significant as neonatal, perinatal death and term death. It is not contingent on how many weeks a pregnant woman was when she experienced a pregnancy loss.
We understand that couples need to assess their own comfort point around announcing their pregnancy. If the outcome is not as expected, women should feel comfortable about sharing their experience and seeking support. We know that there is more support and understanding when a miscarriage occurs if a couple have told people around them that they are pregnant.
Couples should decide for themselves as to when to announce their pregnancy and feel comfortable in doing so knowing that regardless of the gestation or circumstance that they will be supported.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists who has over three decades of experience in the field of high risk and low risk pregnancies. Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting! He has treated tens of thousands of gynaecological patients.
In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.