The “Delayed Notification” Phenomenon

It’s bad juju to publicize your pregnancy before you’ve reached the second trimester. This delay in notification is practiced widely in Western culture, but nobody has really asked why we keep our early pregnancies a secret. As a component of a recent research paper I wrote about miscarriage and fetal personhood, I anonymously interviewed 17 women who have given birth in the past seven years about this practice. The results were striking.

According to my survey results, 10 out of the 17 women chose to keep their pregnancies secret until after the three-month mark. Their reasoning varied, though almost all of them somehow dealt with a fear of early miscarriage.

One “wanted to make sure it was a viable pregnancy before telling [her] friends and family,” another “felt confident that the pregnancy was healthy and sticking,” and another stated that she “felt more secure in the pregnancy.” Another respondent who waited until four-five months’ gestation before publicizing her pregnancy cited her age as the main reason.

In examining the language that these women use, it’s interesting to note that they all felt a greater sense of safety after the first trimester (viable, healthy, sticking, secure). This makes sense, as 80% of all miscarriages occur during the first trimester.

For those respondents that had already experienced a previous miscarriage, the reasoning was a bit different:

“With my first, I told people early and ended up having a miscarriage, so I wanted to play it safe this time.”

“I’d had previous complications, and wanted to make sure it was a viable pregnancy before telling my friends and family”

“The first time, we were very excited, and told everyone right away at five weeks. After that pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, we were more cautious with future pregnancies”

Of the six women who reported a history of miscarriage, one response stood out as a deliberate defiance of social norms around miscarriage. This woman told her family and friends right away at 5 weeks and waited until 12 weeks to make the pregnancy more public, telling me that she “would have ended up talking about the losses,” even with her history of miscarriage. This response was particularly striking as this woman chose to actively subvert the norm of silencing miscarriage.

Interestingly enough, I have yet to find a scholarly source that addresses this topic. It seems surprising to me that nobody has written about such a widely practiced phenomenon! MSP readers: do you have any clues?

About Michaela

Michaela

Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.