The Pros and (Mostly) Cons of Waiting 12 Weeks to Share Pregnancy News

Debunking the ‘wait 12 weeks to tell’ pregnancy rule can help women get the proper support after a miscarriage

Woman looking at the landscape

There’s an unspoken rule in our society that you shouldn’t tell someone you’re pregnant until you are 12 weeks along, when the chance for miscarriage has passed. Is that a rule you should follow or not? In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, two of our Stanford Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Health Services experts explore how this idea came about and offer their perspectives on support after miscarriage. Meet Katherine (Ellie) Williams, MD, the head of the Stanford Women’s Wellness Clinic and clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, which provides specialized mental health care to women, and Denishia Robbins, MSW, a mental health clinician with the Fertility and Reproductive Health Services at Stanford Medicine who provides individual and group counseling for women and men facing reproductive challenges.

The logic behind waiting to tell

Ever wonder how this rule came to be? Maybe it circulated through the medical world, or it picked up steam from one woman to the next. Likely, it’s born out of the idea that if you don’t tell others you’re pregnant, then if you lose the baby, your hopes won’t be dashed. Some people may also think it shields them from perceived embarrassment if they broadly share the news and then have to walk it back.

“It’s an interesting psychological myth that if we don’t talk about a pregnancy, and it fails, then we won’t be disappointed. It’s a way to feel in control of an uncontrollable situation,” says Dr. Williams.

The experts speculated that the societal habit of not sharing the news could have sprung from the fact that we don’t have an institutionalized way of dealing with a miscarriage, unlike when a living person dies. There is no funeral or religious ceremony.

“Another reason for the societal rule could be that women not only want to shelter themselves from loss, but they also want to shelter others,” Dr. Williams says.

Sharing with others gives you somewhere to turn

By sharing your pregnancy news with at least one trusted person, you gain the opportunity to lean on them for support if you do miscarry. When grieving, you need empathy and compassion to heal.

“Talking to others helps you maintain a healthy perspective on your miscarriage and keeps you from blaming yourself or going down a rabbit hole of unhealthy thoughts,” Dr. Williams adds. “If you suffer alone, you are more prone to becoming depressed.”

Miscarriage is common, occurring in 15% to 20% of pregnancies. The most common reason for a miscarriage is problems with a fetus’s genes or chromosomes.

“By holding in your loss, you might internalize a sense of shame and worry that the miscarriage was your fault. That’s not true. Miscarriages are often ruled by biology and are out of a woman’s control,” says Robbins.

Recurrent miscarriage can have multiple causes, such as medical, genetic, anatomical, hormonal, or immunological. If you miscarry and you join a support group where women share their grief and disappointment about miscarriage, you will likely find peace and understanding.

“Group therapy is really helpful for coping with miscarriage because you realize you are not alone. There is power in that shared experience,” Robbins says. 

If you have had one miscarriage, try not to worry. Your chances of carrying your next pregnancy to full term stay about the same as if you had never had a pregnancy loss. If you have had more than one miscarriage, there’s hope. Our Recurrent Pregnancy Loss program has great success helping women carry pregnancies full term. Our multiple specialists work together to create an individualized plan just for you.

When to seek support after a miscarriage

Miscarriage can have a profound impact on your sense of well-being. Grief is common in the months following the loss of a pregnancy and can last for weeks or months. Be sure to talk to your provider about your concerns, anxiety, or depression.

“It’s not unusual for women who miscarry to feel depressed. Watch for symptoms of depression, which include losing interest in things that usually bring you pleasure, feeling tired, having trouble sleeping, losing your appetite, or feeling restless. In general, if there is a significant change from before your miscarriage to now, consider seeking help,” Robbins says.

It is natural to grieve, but if grief is interfering with your daily life, seek out support. Know that asking for help does not mean you are weak. Find the courage and self-love to explore resources on miscarriage grief support. We are here to offer support and hope .

“If you have a loved one who miscarried, just be there for them. Resist saying, ‘It was nature’ or ‘You will get pregnant again.’ Instead, say you are sorry for their loss, ask how you can support them, and let them know that you are available to talk whenever they need,” Dr. Williams says.

This leads us back to the original question: When should you tell others about your pregnancy? Should you follow the unspoken rule and wait 12 weeks?

“Do what feels right for you, rather than what society tells you. Whenever you think it is the right time to share your news, share it. There’s no shame if it’s before the expected 12 weeks,” Robbins concludes.

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health offers women the full gamut of care around pregnancy, from reproductive health, fertility, and obstetrics to recurrent pregnancy loss support, including mental health resources for women who have experienced miscarriage.

Resources for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

HAND of the Bay Area—Virtual grief support groups and one-on-one peer support for parents grieving the loss of a baby before, during, or after birth.

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association—Comprehensive information on pregnancy loss.

Postpartum Support International—Support for perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, postpartum depression, and psychosis via help lines, talking with peers, and tailored support groups.

HOPE Registry—A Stanford Medicine research study that helps you gain insight into your miscarriage while helping move the science forward on recurrent pregnancy loss.

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Program—A multispecialty fertility program that provides advanced health care and support to women who are experiencing repeat miscarriages.


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