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Why is it there and should you follow it?

That's why Rowe, now 40, felt completely blind when she lost her son. She thought she had gotten over the problem and that in just a few months she would be holding a healthy baby.

The loss made her realize how relieved she was to have the support of friends and family. If she had lost Cooper before announcing her pregnancy, she feared it would be a very different story.

Samantha Rowe and Paul Lyons with son Noah, who was born dead in October 2018.

Samantha Rowe and Paul Lyons with son Noah, who was born dead in October 2018.Credit:Sincere

"I'm so glad people knew I was pregnant because when the broken heart really hit, we had people supporting us. It has become very clear to me that being important about what is happening is important," she says.

Rowe is now firmly against the idea of ​​the 12-week rule and has opted to announce her subsequent pregnancies as early as six weeks, saying that “I knew instinctively that I regretted not sharing earlier and would not do the same. error".

She is not alone. More couples are opting to discard the tradition, saying it is forcing them to be confidential and lying during what is often the hardest trimester of pregnancy. And if pregnancy is lost, as up to one in four pregnancies identified, isolation is exacerbated.

Monash University social researcher Dr. Jade Bilardi says there is a cruel irony in the unwritten social rule because, although it is intended to save couples from the difficulty of telling and then "telling" people about a pregnancy, 80% of Miscarriages occur before age 12. week mark.


"It's like telling someone, 'Well, don't tell everyone, what if you abort?' Where does that leave a person? Alone in their pain and loss," she said.

"It's considered safe to tell people about your pregnancy. The problem with this is that abortions are more common in the first trimester, which means that if we don't tell people around us, they won't be there to support us when it happens." an abortion. "

The rule means that miscarriages are happening in the shadows, so the despair that affects so many remains untold, undermining public awareness of the loss of pregnancy.

According to Dr. Vijay Roach, president of the Royal College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Australia and New Zealand, the "12 week rule" does not come from doctors. Instead, it evolved from the 12-week examination that most pregnant women pass, which confirms viability and may detect some abnormalities.

He says it is wrong to see the 12-week mark as a magic bullet, describing the number as "arbitrary". In most cases, he says, pregnancy can be considered clinically safe earlier.

Dr. Vijay Roach believes that

Dr. Vijay Roach believes that the 12-week "rule" has evolved from 12-week ultrasound.Credit:AP

Australian research shows that the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically after seven weeks of pregnancy. In pregnancies considered viable, the risk of miscarriage is 9.4% at six weeks. It drops to 4.2% in seven weeks, 1.5% in eight weeks and thereafter the risk drops below 1%.

“Science is misunderstood… [At 12 weeks] The chance that pregnancy will continue and result in a healthy baby is very high. But you can make that determination first.

Bilardi says that society does not deal well with grief and loss, which means that many couples have received unpleasant reactions to news of their miscarriage, because many people cannot understand the magnitude of the loss.

In their heads, their whole lives were about to change from the first moment they discovered they were pregnant.

Jackie Mead, CEO of Sands

"We don't know what to say or we don't say anything, which gets worse," she says. It is very common for the loss to be diminished, in the vein "Oh well, you were too early" or "it was just a bunch of cells".

“Research shows that grief and loss after a miscarriage can be as significant as neonatal, perinatal, and late death. It does not depend on how many weeks a woman was pregnant. "

Jackie Mead, executive director of the abortion and stillbirth organization, Sands, agrees that many people fail to understand how hard it can be for bereaved couples to deal with never having a chance to see or hold their baby.

"In their minds, their whole life was about to change from the first moment they found out they were pregnant," says Mead. "If a baby died at four or 16 weeks, those feelings do not change."

Rachel Green remembers the feeling of

Rachel Green remembers the feeling of "keeping all this suffering to ourselves".Credit:Christopher Pearce

Sydney woman, Rachel Green, 38, is familiar with the fear of how insensitive people might react to early loss.

That's why, when she had her first pregnancy in 2014 from IVF after two years of fertility treatments, she followed the 12-week rule. When she lost her baby at seven weeks, she was heartbroken and the isolation was unbearable. Having kept her fertility journey secret, she says it seemed very difficult to tell from the beginning what had happened, so she was left without the support of others.

“It really aggravated the devastation we felt. It was almost too late to catch people. It's such a long story to tell, so we kept all this grief to ourselves, ”says Green, who is president of Sands and now has more than three.

The biggest thing we hear from women and partners is the importance of recognizing the loss.

Dr. Jade Bilardi, Social Researcher

Rowe says the pregnancy given "is something women say we were born to do" when you lose "there is guilt." But Dr. Roach of RANZCOG expects women to stop blaming themselves because the vast majority of abortions are "beyond anyone's control."

"At least 70% are due to a chromosomal abnormality," he says. Dr. Roach offers couples risk data and suggests that they consider their "comfort point" when announcing pregnancy, as each of us has a different situation.

"We should encourage women to share a positive pregnancy and, if the outcome is not desired, women should feel confident sharing their experiences and seeking support."

Samantha Rowe and Paul Lyons founded the social company Memories of an Angel in 2016.

Samantha Rowe and Paul Lyons founded the social company Memories of an Angel in 2016.Credit:Joe Armao

Bilardi says it makes no sense to have a general 12 week rule. “It has to be about what works best for each couple… For many people, we know that there is more support and understanding when a miscarriage occurs, if they tell other people they were pregnant and it can make pregnancy easier. ask for help. "

But for some, the thought of announcing a pregnancy and telling people who have an abortion can be "really, really hard," so there is no right or wrong time. "It depends on the individual and I would hate to think that there would be criticism from people for announcing in advance."

Much needed change of attitude toward the rule will depend on expectant parents who feel confident that people will know how to behave if a miscarriage occurs, she says. Listening to others simply says they are sorry and are there for them is an important start.

"What we need to do is raise awareness about the kind of support people need," she says. "The biggest thing we hear from women and partners is the importance of recognizing the loss."

How to support someone after abortion

  • Acknowledge your loss. Simply saying & # 39; sorry for your loss & # 39; means a lot. Do not say anything
  • Listen and let them suffer, ask how they are, and encourage them to talk to others who have had a miscarriage. Knowing that you are not alone helps
  • Provide practical support. For example, leave a meal or help take care of children.
  • Avoid cliché comments such as "not meant to be" or "so common"
  • Avoid blaming and offering unsolicited advice

Although both sides of a couple are affected differently by early pregnancy loss, the 12-week rule can isolate a man as much as a woman. Paul Lyons, Rowe's husband, says he doesn't think about his own pain when he witnesses the emotional and physical turmoil his wife goes through.

To let other people know what's going on while he supports his wife, he can also get help from his community. "A pat on the back can change your day," he says. "If we had not announced and lost, no one would understand why we are depressed."

Having suffered eight miscarriages and three stillbirths in five years, Rowe had a longer and more difficult road than most. Since then she has founded the social enterprise Memories of an Angel and says there is a "significant misunderstanding" of the impact of abortion and the painful medical ordeal often involved.

"You're not magically pregnant anymore," she says. "Talking about it begins to normalize it … It just breaks my heart, knowing that just because of some stupid rule, people are suffering on their own."

"There is no way we can survive without support."

Rowe believes the most important message for women is to be empowered to decide for themselves when to announce a pregnancy "anytime they are comfortable doing it … and they know that regardless of pregnancy or circumstance, they will be supported ".

October 15 is Pregnancy and Child Loss Remembrance Day, with landmarks to be lit in pink and blue, memorable walks and a memorial service in Melbourne. For more information, visit

The 24/7 national hotline at Sands Australia is at 1300 072 637 or visit their website.

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