Should parents still keep early pregnancy a secret?

RENDEZVIEW: It's the unwritten rule of pregnancy - keep it secret for the first trimester (no matter how obvious your Jatz addiction). But as the fertility conversation evolves, should we still remain silent, asks Edwina Bartholomew.

I can protect big, important news that belongs to someone else, but when it comes to my own exciting developments, I might as well work in outdoor advertising.

In April, we discovered the long-awaited news that we are having a baby. I use the term 'we' generously because I am yet to see my husband fish out his elasticised pants or survive on a diet of Jatz for three months.

RELATED: Edwina Bartholomew announces she's pregnant with her first child

While he managed to keep mum about our exciting news, I was less discreet. I told close friends and distant relatives, the Uber driver, the next-door neighbour, the pizza guy, waiters, baristas, practically anyone who would listen, and this was all before the crucial 12-week mark.

Edwina Bartholomew announced her pregnancy via Sunrise. Picture: Chloe Paul/Supplied
Edwina Bartholomew announced her pregnancy via Sunrise. Picture: Chloe Paul/Supplied

It's an unwritten rule that most women will keep their pregnancy private until after the first trimester. There are very good medical reasons for this, of course.

Approximately one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage in Australia, with the first trimester is the riskiest period. And at 12 weeks, the likelihood of having a healthy, full-term baby increases significantly, with results of those first important health tests coming in, and having hopefully been given the all-clear.

It's also when, if you're lucky, you start to feel better as the morning sickness dissipates and the need for two afternoon naps diminishes.

Jackie Mead, CEO of Sands Australia, a not-for-profit organisation supporting parents dealing with miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death believes that when it comes to finding the right time to share the big news, it's up to each individual.

"Yes, there is a risk of miscarriage, and if you do come out and tell people earlier, then you will need to go through the discussion of losing the baby. However, your network around you will also be able to provide you with valuable support," Mead says.

This was very much my school of thought. When I started sharing the news early with close girlfriends, we discussed the risks of losing a child and what my husband and I would do if the tests revealed medical complications.

Edwina shared an ultrasound image on Sunrise and via social media when announcing her pregnancy. Picture: Instagram
Edwina shared an ultrasound image on Sunrise and via social media when announcing her pregnancy. Picture: Instagram

I was shocked by the response as my friends started opening up about their own experiences. One miscarriage, two kids. Three kids with two miscarriages in between. I had no idea. Another friend's baby was stillborn at 26 weeks. She said she doesn't like to tell her story to pregnant women because it makes future mothers too fearful.

That secretive 12 week waiting period had covered up the uncomfortable reality of pregnancy. I didn't even know some friends were pregnant or had suffered alone. It was all kept very hush, hush.

The statistics around miscarriage are relatively shocking. In Australia, 282 women a day experience early pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation. By 35 years of age, the risk of experiencing miscarriage increases from one in four to one in three. By 40, it goes up again with half of all pregnancies ending in miscarriage.

At 35, I am classed as a geriatric pregnancy. I already have the TV viewing habits and bedtime appropriate for a senior citizen, so I suppose that description makes sense.

Like many women, I left my run at kids a little later in life, which makes pregnancy slightly riskier. But you only really discover these figures when you're right in the thick of it.

This is the first baby for Edwina Bartholomew and her husband, Neil. Picture: Instagram
This is the first baby for Edwina Bartholomew and her husband, Neil. Picture: Instagram

Dr Jessie Sutherland from the Hunter Medical Research Institute says the statistics on miscarriage haven't changed dramatically in recent years, but our willingness to discuss it has. "Having a more open conversation means you are more aware. You have to remember there is a biological reason for losing a baby. It can happen spontaneously and is a very natural part of pregnancy," she says.

Now that I know all the facts, I try not to think about it too much.

I'm sitting at around 15 weeks right now. There's still a long way to go, but I'm thankfully feeling healthy and happy. I'm taking advantage of the joys of pregnancy - endless cake and any excuse to put my feet up, while also dealing with the downsides - the hormones, the lack of pants that fit and the constant need to use the loo.

I'm more careful about myself, and I'm more careful around other women my age because I've realised that you never know what people are going through.

Unless it's me, of course. You'll know what I'm going through because I'll probably tell you. Did I mention I'm hopeless at keeping secrets?

Edwina Bartholomew is a presenter for Channel 7's Sunrise @edwina_b


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