When my husband and I announced I was pregnant with our first child—after five years of marriage and 12 weeks of keeping the baby news secret—no less than half of our friends responded with “Congratulations! How long were you trying?” The questions didn’t end there: “Did you use fertility drugs?” “Why did you wait so long?” “Was it planned?” Silly me, I had assumed those things were nobody’s business but my husband’s, my gyno’s and mine.
How did such a private topic wind up in the public domain? “There’s always been a cultural tendency for people to take an interest in the next generation—who’s having babies and how they’re making them,” says Judith N. Lasker, Ph.D., a sociology professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., and author of In Search of Parenthood: Coping With Infertility and High-Tech Conception (Temple University Press, 1994). “But now that so much information is available, people have a new way of thinking about pregnancy.” In other words, when you watch real women giving birth in graphic detail on The Learning Channel’s A Baby Story and read every detail of Courteney Cox Arquette’s miscarriages and fertility treatments in the Star, it’s not such a stretch for the guy in the cubicle next to you at work to ask if you had an episiotomy.
In this new culture of openness, some women feel comfortable discussing every last detail. “All my friends knew I had wanted a baby for years,” says Randi Pellett, a 37-year-old teacher. “So when my husband finally agreed he was ready, we practically had a community celebration.” Pellett shared her ovulation schedule with friends and was on the phone minutes after she took her home pregnancy test. “It never even crossed my mind to wait to tell people I was pregnant,” she says.
Others are less forthcoming, especially if they’ve experienced infertility or miscarriages. Interestingly, Lasker’s research found that couples are more likely to share information if it’s the woman who’s infertile. “If it’s something to do with the man—like a low sperm count—they’re less likely to discuss it, or sometimes they’ll even lie to protect his virility,” Lasker says.
How soon should you tell? No matter how you get pregnant, once you are, there’s the question of how long you should wait before spreading the news. Though many eager couples don’t go this route, the prevailing wisdom is to only tell people you are closest to at first, then wait until you’re past the first trimester, when the chance of miscarriage decreases.
“Ask yourself, ‘If I miscarry, who are the people who will support me the best?’ and tell only them,” advises Somerville, Mass., psychiatric nurse Diane Clapp, R.N., medical information director for Resolve, a national infertility and pregnancy counseling and referral service (www.resolve.org).
“Many women want to wait until they’re sure it’s going to happen,” Lasker says. “That could be at the end of the first trimester, or the first sonogram, or even the first time they feel movement.” Your culture may also dictate how chatty you want to be about your pregnancy. For example, many Orthodox Jewish parents don’t discuss baby names during pregnancy because their babies aren’t officially named until after they’re born.