Misconceptions, an online video series about losing a pregnancy. Episode 7: The silence around the first trimester
It happens all the time but we hardly ever talk about it. About one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, leaving many couples struggling with unresolved grief and social isolation. In this 10-part video-based online series, made by Digital Alchemist and funded by NZ On Air, we break down the myths and provide practical help. We hear from well-known NZ personalities - The Hits host and te reo advocate Stacey Morrison, TVNZ presenter and journalist Miriamo Kamo and funeral director Kaiora Tipene from The Casketeers - about their personal experiences and follow the stories of six couples who have been through the trauma of miscarriage.
The "12-week rule" is the custom that pregnancies should be kept secret until they reach three months. But adhering to this rule can have unintended consequences.
"It's always seemed a little bit crazy to me that there's this line in the sand that before 12 weeks somehow you're not supposed to share the news with anyone, and after 12 weeks it's somehow absolutely safe to tell the whole world," says GP Cathy Stephenson.
"I think historically that came from the fact that the first scan was around 12 weeks, so that's the time you got confirmation that the pregnancy was okay, and things were going to proceed. Actually, I would say that the first trimester before the 12-week mark is when women need the most support."Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
People may choose to keep their pregnancies secret during the first trimester for a variety of reasons. They may not wish to be judged about the choices they're making, they may fear career retaliation, or they may simply consider it to be a private matter. But perinatal midwife specialist Debbie Davies says there can be drawbacks to not sharing the news.
"If you do end up in a situation where you lose this pregnancy, it does mean if you've kept it silent that actually you get very little support, and people don't really understand what you're going through," Davies says.
People often keep quiet about their miscarriages, too. They may fear being shamed or judged, they may sense that their feelings will be diminished by others, or they may feel that the joy of the pregnant people around them takes priority over their grief.
"I discovered that there's a sense you're not allowed to talk about your pain and your grief and your loss," says journalist Miriama Kamo. "There's a sense that if you experience those things you are being a bit dramatic, that you need to get over it."Kathryn Stothers, seen here with her husband Cam, felt unable to talk openly about her miscarriage. Photo / Digital Alchemist
Bereaved parent Kathryn Stothers agrees. "We don't talk about subjects that are scary, or emotionally challenging or uncomfortable, and pregnancy loss is uncomfortable for many people," she says. "We kept very quiet about it because that was the cultural norm."
Although choosing when to disclose a pregnancy is a personal decision, people should not feel as though they are required to keep first trimester pregnancies under wraps.
Broadcaster Stacey Morrison says the silence around first trimester pregnancy and pregnancy loss can lead to isolation. "That's what we can change and should change."
Watch all the episodes at nzherald.co.nz/MisconceptionsNZ - a new episode will be added each day from Monday to Friday, ending on July 3
Episode One: What is miscarriage?
Episode Two: Types of miscarriage
Episode Three: Causes of miscarriage
Episode Four: Managing miscarriage
Episode Five: Coping with grief
Episode Six: Accessing support
Episode Seven: The silence around the first trimester
Episode Eight: Miscarriage and work
Episode Nine: How to support someone who's going through miscarriage
Episode Ten: Sharing stories of hope