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When to Announce You're Pregnant

When Brad Imler, Ph.D., learned his wife was pregnant, he couldn’t wait to share the news. Dr. Imler, president of the American Pregnancy Association, had firsthand experience dealing with infertility. “The door was open to starting a family for about five years, but we made a more concentrated effort for the last three,” Dr. Imler recalls.

He and wife Lynn had been through fertility treatments, but the pregnancy “just happened.” Dr. Imler couldn’t wait to tell people. The chairman of the Association’s board of directors lived nearby, and the Imlers rushed over. “We were so excited, and they were excited for us,” Dr. Imler says. He and his wife then started calling family and friends.

Three days later, the Imlers were calling the same people, this time to share the sorrow of their miscarriage.

Enthusiasm Versus Caution
Like the Imlers, most people are anxious to share the happy news of a pregnancy. However, that excitement may be mixed with fear. What if something goes wrong? When is it “safe” to tell?

If your pregnancy comes after infertility treatments, it may be especially prudent to wait. “In general, infertility does lead to a slightly higher risk of miscarriage,” says Serena Chen, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrinology at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey. “The best advice is to wait a little bit. Every day that goes by reduces that risk.”

As you wait, your baby grows—and your pregnancy grows stronger. “At the time of the first missed period, about 80 percent of pregnancies turn into babies,” says Frederick Licciardi, M.D., associate director of the divison of reproductive endocrinology at New York University’s Program for IVF, Reproductive Surgery and Infertility in Manhattan. “By the time a heartbeat is seen during the first ultrasound, 90 percent will turn into babies. And if the pregnancy is viable after the first trimester, over 95 percent will become babies.”

Pre-Pregnancy Planning
Obviously, “when to tell” is a personal decision. “Everybody has individual factors that come into play,” says Dr. Chen. “You should decide in advance how you want to tell people, and when.” And if there are two of you involved, make sure you have this discussion, so you’re not being tight-lipped only to learn your partner has told everyone in your address book.

Some couples decide only to tell those people they would turn to for emotional support if there was a problem. Or they choose to tell close friends but not acquaintances. Or they may even decide not to tell their parents until they’re fairly certain the pregnancy is normal.

“We discussed how we wanted to announce our pregnancy, especially in light of my friends’ miscarriages,” says Trina Lambert, a Colorado writer who miscarried her first child at six weeks. “We decided not to keep the news from our immediate families, but we told them not to tell anyone else. Then we made an announcement once I made it to twelve weeks.”

When it’s Okay to Tell
Sharing the news may help make the pregnancy more “real” to you. Others will be able to partake in your joy, and will understand your sorrow if a miscarriage occurs. “There are a number of reasons to inform people that you are pregnant, even following a long period of infertility,” says Dr. Imler. These reasons include:

-You are excited, and it’s all the more fun to have people share that joy with you.
-You want to avoid the stress of keeping a secret, particularly from people who care about you.
-You can get a head start on planning, shopping, scheduling appointments and classes, and the other “pre-labor day” activities that fill this special time.
-You have a network of family and friends who will be there to support you if a loss does occur.

When it’s Smarter to Wait
Keeping news of this magnitude secret is easier said than done, but sometimes it may be better to keep the news private for a while. “If you will be uncomfortable having to tell people the pregnancy has ended, then it’s probably best to wait to inform family and friends,” says Dr. Imler, who speaks from experience. Consider waiting if:

-You’ve battled infertility or had a miscarriage in the past.
-You would rather friends and family not know if something goes wrong, or are worried that they won’t be able to give you the kind of support you need.

If you don’t want to tell family and friends yet, but find the news too sweet to keep to yourself, there are other options. Online support groups and Internet bulletin boards can provide you with an understanding network of people who will be thrilled to hear your news – but won’t add to your pressure level if something should go wrong.

There are no set rules on when you should share your good news and with whom. Talk to your partner, choose what feels most comfortable, and then look forward to the day—however soon it may be—when you can announce to the world why you just can’t stop smiling.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2005 issue.