Early pregnancy, Loss, Women

The 12 week “rule” and the underlying harm it causes

Women in the UK and further afield, whether they have had their own babies or not, will have heard that 12 weeks is when you are officially (societally anyway) “allowed to tell people” about your pregnancy. It is so ingrained! We can see this from the frequently asked questions on Google of women asking permission to share their own life changing news with loved ones. I would like to delve into why this “rule” persists so deeply.

ANSWER: Information about your own body is yours to do whatever you wish with – this includes keeping it to yourself when you want to, but it also includes sharing it with those you trust whenever you want to! There are no rules.

Why 12 weeks?

Women are shamed into silence during the first trimester of pregnancy to make other people more comfortable because we live in a society that A. medicalises pregnancy and birth from conception and B. can’t talk about death. 

According to Healthline the rate of miscarriage in known pregnancies is 10% – 15%. Of that 15%, 80% of those miscarriages happen in the first trimester. So the theory is that because there is a higher chance of a baby dying, the mother should keep it to herself. Who does that benefit? There are two scenarios for the first trimester, the first and most likely is that the woman goes into her second trimester with a healthy baby still growing and developing, and the second is that the baby dies. Neither of these scenarios calls for women to be silent and deal with their feelings alone.

It is no coincidence that 12 weeks is “usually” when a woman will have her first ultrasound scan. This is placed on a pedestal (or a medistal, if you will) as being the solid way to “make sure everything is okay” before you share your news with anyone. What does that say to women about their intuition? It completely undermines it. It tells women that it doesn’t matter that they feel absolutely fine, and intuitively know that their baby is well. It says the only thing that matters is what they can measure. This sets women up for their entire pregnancy and birth being medicalised. Each time she starts to trust in her intuition, she’ll be encouraged by friends, family, partner, medical staff, to go for an ultrasound “just in case she’s wrong”. If women are being told that the only way to make their pregnancy “real” is to go to that scan and get a freaky print-out so that you can tell people, then it becomes the only option.

The 12 weeks “rule” also gives the impression that if your baby dies before 12 weeks, it doesn’t really count and this is massively damaging. The idea of “at least you won’t have to tell everyone the bad news” also cuts women off from receiving love and support from those who would give it if they knew. The gestation at which a woman loses a baby doesn’t change how it feels for her.


Death is a part of life

I don’t say this flippantly. Death is hard. It’s raw, heartbreaking, jolting. Death is normal, but that doesn’t make it easy. Death is something that we all experience, in one form or another, many times in life. When a family member dies, it is socially acceptable to be openly sad and to grieve in your own time, and maybe invite others to be with you during that time in the form of a funeral or a wake. We all have ways of dealing with grief, but the most difficult thing to have to do is hide it. Miscarriage is fairly common – in fact, most of you will know someone who has had a miscarriage, but you may not be aware of it. You might have experienced one yourself, and dealt with it alone. Why are we, as a society, encouraging women to deal with this type of death behind closed doors when everyone claims to care so very much about the babies? I suppose that’s it though, isn’t it? This is about the mother, and that’s why they don’t want to hear it.


Who does it benefit when women feel like they have to keep their pregnancy (and potential loss) a secret?

If a woman loses her baby in the first trimester, who does she turn to? Those closest to her didn’t even know she was pregnant in the first place, so how can they know what support she needs? The truth is that society can’t talk about death, so they would rather not deal with it. The death of a baby is something that is used in the medicalisation of birth to scare women into agreeing to things they don’t believe are necessary. Perhaps if, as a society, we understood and talked about death more, this coercion tactic wouldn’t be so effective. When a woman is being told that she must be induced or her baby might die, medical staff are implying that THEY care more about the life of her baby than she does, but when a woman is experiencing a loss and she goes to medical staff for support – that support is non-existent. The medical system wants women to opt-in to all of the appointments, scans and tests so that they don’t get sued, and the best way to get women to engage in the system is the make them feel isolated from the moment they realise they are pregnant.


What has this got to do with medicalising pregnancy, birth and loss?

Most women will have their pregnancy confirmed by peeing on a stick – a pregnancy test. The key word here is test. If we’ve learnt anything from working with women for so long, it’s that a lot of weight is given to things you can measure. If you’ve been told that you shouldn’t tell anyone about your pregnancy until you’re 12 weeks, then the only place you can really go with your thoughts, fears and excitement is the GP and/or to an antenatal clinic, successfully initiating you into the medical system to measure your normal bodily function. There is no alternative presented at that point other than the medical system.


What are the alternatives?

There is no obligation to engage with the medical system in any way if you don’t want to. Pregnancy does not have to be marked by a series of medical appointments, scans and tests. You don’t have to keep it to yourself until you’re checked over by a medical professional. You are pregnant, not sick. You can mark your pregnancy in so many other ways, ways that strengthen your intuition instead of second-guessing, and build up your confidence instead of knocking it down. You can trust your intuition to know that you are pregnant rather than peeing on a stick, and if you’re not 100% sure then you will soon know just by doing nothing. You can tell those trusted people in your life whenever you want to. You can draw pictures of what you think your baby looks like. Your entire pregnancy can be guided by your intuition and confidence, as opposed to sitting for hours waiting for medical appointments and coming out feeling deflated and scared.


What if my baby does die?

If your baby dies, you deserve to be held, heard and loved. You will be the first to know because your intuition will be strong and you’ll be used to listening to it. Your body is wise and knows exactly what to do next. You can allow your body to work in its own time, without being rushed. You can stay home in your nest, alone if you prefer or surrounded by those that you love and feel safe with. You will know if you need medical assistance because your intuition will tell you. For women who have not told anyone they were pregnant “just in case” are left with very few options in this scenario, because the only people who do know she is pregnant are within the medical system. This often leads to women not being supported emotionally during or after a loss, but rather just treated medically. If you are hesitating on whether or not you want to tell people that you are pregnant during the first 12 weeks “just in case”, it’s worth thinking about who you would want to be there for you if your baby did die. Whether someone loses a baby before 12 weeks or 40 weeks, it is a loss, it is real and however she feels about it is valid.


We need to let women know that it’s okay to share their excitement, it’s okay to get attached to their baby, and it’s okay to grieve openly if their baby does die. If you are in your first trimester and you’d like somewhere to share all of your feelings, fears and excitement – have a look at our first trimester support plan.

If you have suffered a loss in the past, or are currently miscarrying, you can get in touch with us for support by emailing us a hello@greatermanchesterdoulas.com


5 reasons why we can’t get enough of Catherine Cawood

I don’t know about you but all three of us have been completely obsessed with Happy Valley. The whole series is done so incredibly well: three seasons of drama, diving into heavy topics such as drugs, trafficking, rape and murder. It’s a tough watch for sure, but our absolute favourite part of Happy Valley is Sarah Lancashire’s character Catherine Cawood.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t finished watching it yet, stop what you are doing, binge watch it and then come back because I don’t want to give anything away!

Catherine’s character is so well written and perfectly executed! Here are the top 5 things we love about her:

1. Her assertiveness

Catherine is not afraid to put her boundaries in place, and she does it so damn well! Assertiveness is not an easy skill to learn, but we could all take a few tips from the way Catherine asserts her own boundaries with colleagues, strangers and (the hardest one of all) her own family. She is confident in what information she wants to share with others, and what information she wants to keep to herself – and she communicates this SO well.

2. Her strength

Losing her daughter, who took her own life after being abused and raped by Tommy Lee Royce, understandably completely broke Catherine. Her loss clearly weighs heavy on her every single day, but the strength she finds to use her anger and grief to change the world is immense. We love how strong Catherine is, whatever she is facing. Her anger is magnificent and we love to see it portrayed so well.

3. Her sass and humour

Each episode is packed with heavy topics, but it never fails to make you laugh when Catherine gets sassy with someone who is getting on her nerves. Her quick wit and hilarious insults (thinking in particular of “wankertron”) never get old.

4. Her intuition

Her strong intuition and ability to follow it is a great trait for a police officer, but she clearly uses this skill every day for both her personal choices and her professional ones. This is again something we could all take from Catherine’s character. Trust your gut! And when people around you aren’t listening, use that assertiveness to either make yourself heard or put your boundaries in place (preferably with them on the other side of it).

5. Her vulnerability

My absolute favourite thing about Catherine’s character is the fact that she is human. She is both incredibly strong and assertive, whilst also being vulnerable and emotional. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to see this. Her character is all of these things at once, and being vulnerable does not cancel out her strength, it adds to it.

“She’s a woman, she’s blunt, she’s savage, she’s a hero but isn’t untouchable. She is driven by her grief and anger and is intent on using those to effect change. She’s Northern, she’s relatable and I bloody aspire to be that awesome!”

– Sarah’s response to “What did you love about Catherine?”, which sums it up perfectly!

The lessons I have taken from Catherine Cawood are that it’s okay to put boundaries in place, even if it hurts people’s feelings – they don’t necessarily have to understand, but someone who deserves to be in your life will respect your boundaries no matter what. Trusting your intuition is not always easy, but it will never lead you wrong. Being emotionally vulnerable does not make you any less strong or assertive – nobody said being strong and assertive was easy, it’s okay to find it difficult.

Oh, and I learnt lots of new insults!

The character was based on a police officer called Lisa Farrand who was the Police Advisor for the series, which is what made it so realistic. We imagine Lisa is a total badass with all of the amazing qualities listed above! Thank you Lisa, and thank you Sarah Lancashire for doing such an amazing job of portraying this character.

National Days, Women

National Storytelling Week 2023

The Witches Knew – A Faery’s Tail of Birth and Re-memberance.

Here is a beautiful short story written by one of our amazing volunteers who is so full of wisdom and magic – thank you Becky for writing this story for us to share!

Round and round like a spiral into the ground she goes, planting roots and scattering seeds. This space, this space, this sacred space, without time, without pressure, the oxytocin waves of pleasure. There’s nothing to fear here, said the little girl lost in me, I’m planting my roots in the ground like a tree. As she looked up the room glowed with wisdom, the air felt full, full of all of those who had come before and all those who were to follow. All the ancestors; there to hold that space, that space, that sacred space. So back within the journey called, to be disturbed would make the fool, as this is where the story starts of the little minds and their little hearts. No one else’s work for sure than the body that grew and the tiny soul that chose it.

The water, the water, the deep warm water, a comfort beyond the known. There’s no pain here, said that little girl again. What a wondrous, wondrous thing to be, a woman in labour birthing free. Inside the body calls, the body calls, deeper and deeper than anything before. But it’s dark in there, says the little girl again, why yes because you are to bring in the light! So down she goes… What’s happening out there is not hers to know for she seeks the peace to go deep; to retrieve the soul who chose her to keep.

The air tingles with excitement, up she spirals again… Oh my it’s the day… Gosh, how bizarre, well there’s no room here for the magic we need! So she takes these hours as a space just to breathe. At the onset of night here she goes once again, round and round, spiralling, deep into the ground. But this time feels different, she’s journeyed this space, now nothing else matters but why she’s come to this place. This place so deep, so deeply within, within her body, within the earth, within her void…here she goes again. As roots trickle down, they find themselves firmly in her musty soil, within our Mother. 

For without these roots she cannot know, the strength and flexibility needed to grow. For growth is how the story changes and humanity’s destiny re-arranges. This is where Mother is born, from Mother, from this space, this space, this beautiful, sacred space.

Last fragments of the mind disperse as she reaches this primal moment, she roars and of course, there she is, she is heard, what beauty, what magic, what truth here does flow. The magic of life, the journey of all, to retrieve that new soul takes everything… everything…everything… Just for a moment the world stops, Mother takes a breath, she breathes through her now, this thread, connecting Earth to her and her to them. For this moment, this is where faeries are born, the creation of all that is magic, this life giving, life changing moment. 

So you might see why they would burn us at the stake, why now they just separate us, push us till we break. But we’re changing the world, making new choices, empowering ourselves, raising our voices. So let’s honour the portal we have in our wombs, from Maiden to Crone, let us tend to our wounds. As all those around us, before us, to come will be grateful for all that we change and overcome.

– A short story by Becky Saunders