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The road to parenthood is riddled with decisions, from where to give birth to what to name your precious bundle of joy. But for many expectant parents, the very first decision of all is when to spill the pregnancy beans.
If you're grappling with this issue, read on for the pros and cons of telling at each stage.
For some, the idea of keeping the pregnancy a secret is simply unrealistic. "My husband and I told at 7 weeks," says one our site mom. "We couldn't keep our mouths shut!" Another says, "I couldn't hold my secret. I told my friends and family as soon as I found out. I was just so excited."
This is one of the advantages of telling early: Your friends and family can share in that wonderful initial exhilaration.
Another advantage? You won't have to "fake it." As Jenna McCarthy, author of The Parent Trip, puts it, "You won't have to make excuses for feeling exhausted, gaining weight, or passing up a glass of wine."
It can be particularly hard to fake it in the face of severe morning sickness, and you may prefer for your co-workers to know you're pregnant rather than think you're a deadbeat. "I was missing work due to morning sickness, so I had to tell them around 8 weeks," one mom says.
Perhaps the biggest pro of early telling, however, is that you'll get support and comfort if there are complications. As one woman explains, "We were going to wait until after the 8-week ultrasound to tell everyone, but we decided to go ahead and tell. I realized that if anything did go wrong, I'd want the support."
Of course, you can tell them about it after the fact, but it's not quite the same as if they'd been on the emotional ride along with you.
One caution: If you have occupational exposures that are unsafe for pregnancy, you don't have the luxury of waiting it out, at least with your boss. You'll need to tell your supervisor right away so that you can make arrangements to avoid the hazards.
First trimester home-stretchers
If you prefer to keep things private in the event of a loss, you'll want to keep your news under wraps until the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically, which happens at the end of the first trimester, around 10 to 12 weeks. That's why this is such a common time for the Big Tell.
One mom offers this cautionary tale: "I got pregnant and announced it at work right away, then miscarried over Thanksgiving. When I came back to work, people kept dropping by my office to congratulate me. It was very sad and awkward."
Also (on a more superficial note), many women start to show around the end of the first trimester. By telling at this point, you'll avoid any funny looks or comments about your poochy stomach.
One minor drawback of waiting to announce your news is that you have slightly less time over the course of your pregnancy to celebrate it with loved ones. But even if you wait until the end of the first trimester, you'll still have ample time to soak up the excitement and good wishes. By the time your due date rolls around, you'll very likely feel like pregnancy has gone on long enough.
Some expectant moms choose to wait until they're firmly in the second trimester before telling. Women with previous losses or those who are more at risk for complications may be more likely to choose this option.
"I'm in my late thirties, so I didn't want to tell anyone, even family, until the second trimester," says one. Another explains, "I'd been through miscarriages before, so I was very reluctant to announce this pregnancy until I was well beyond the first trimester."
Another reason to wait until the second trimester? Some types of prenatal testing – like amniocentesis – aren't available until around 16 to 18 weeks. "People who might consider a termination due to genetic defects may prefer to wait on sharing their news until after they receive clear test results," says Marjorie Greenfield, a professor of obstetrics at Case Western Reserve University and author of The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book. "Otherwise they'll be stuck in the position of having to share something extremely personal and difficult with other people."
Waiting until the final trimester to let the cat out of the bag isn't a very common choice, but it's not unheard of. It's more doable if you're keeping the news from people you aren't seeing in person.
Some women go this route because they don't want to deal with unsolicited advice or criticism. "I'm six months pregnant, and my mom still doesn't know," says one woman. "We don't get along, and I don't want her to make any disrespectful comments."
Others keep mum because they want to avoid fallout in their professional lives. While some workplaces are supportive, others aren't. "One woman – an advertising executive – told me that she didn't get any high-profile clients after she announced her pregnancy," says professor Greenfield. "She ended up wishing she'd hidden it for as long as she could."
Keep in mind that it can be very hard to hide a third-trimester pregnancy, especially from people you interact with in person. People may figure it out on their own … and wonder why you're not telling. "It can become like the elephant in the living room, making for awkward interactions," says Greenfield.
Many women, if not most, tell different people at different times. "I told immediate family and close friends right away, but I waited until my second trimester to start telling the rest," says one mom. Another says, "I told my family and a few close friends a week after we found out. I told my other friends at week 13, and I didn't tell at work until 15 weeks."
The advantage of this approach is that you have people to share the excitement with, and if something goes wrong, you don't have to explain things over and over again to a bunch of acquaintances.
On the other hand, mix-it-uppers run the risk of a "news leak," particularly in tighter communities. "Being a veterinary assistant, I needed to tell my employer right away," one woman says. "But that meant I had to tell everyone. Living in a small town, word gets out fast!"
And beware of the dangers of social media. "I was going to wait a little longer to tell friends, but my parents told my uncle, who told my teenage cousin, who posted a 'congrats' note on my Facebook wall," says one woman. "The next thing I knew, all my college girlfriends were calling me up. So that ruined that!"
As with most pregnancy-related decisions, different approaches work best for different people. So give it some thought, discuss it with your partner, and in the end, go with what you think will work best for both of you. And then? Move on to the next big decision – how to break the news.
Where to go next:
- How to announce your pregnancy
- Pregnancy overview: The next 9 months
- 8 baby-naming pitfalls