By Basha Silver, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Finding out you’re pregnant when you’ve been trying to conceive (TTC) is a momentous occasion! Seeing that positive test (or, for those struggling with fertility challenges, receiving a phone call from your fertility clinic) may cause you to feel a whole range of emotions all at once: joy, euphoria, anxiety, nervousness, fear, and anything in between.
Depending upon your particular journey to getting pregnant, your first reaction may be to shout the news from the rooftops, or it may be to hold it close and keep it private for as long as possible. Here are some considerations for how and when to share this news with loved ones—family members, friends, or otherwise—particularly those who are on a fertility journey of their own and may have varying reactions to your happy news.
When to tell people you’re pregnant
There’s no “right” time to tell friends and family that you are pregnant. Given that approximately 26% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, some people prefer to wait until they are safely through the first trimester, a point at which the risk of miscarriage has significantly decreased and they feel more confident in the health of their pregnancy.
When considering whether to share your pregnancy news, a good question to ask yourself might be, “would I share news of a pregnancy loss or fertility struggles with this person?” If the answer is yes, then it will likely feel safe for you to share the news with this friend or family member at any point in time, even if it’s early on in the pregnancy. Some opt to tell a small support group of close friends early on but may feel more comfortable waiting until the second trimester to share the news with their wider circle of friends and acquaintances.
Sharing your pregnancy news after experiencing fertility challenges
If you are currently pregnant but have struggled with fertility issues or pregnancy losses in the past, you may be feeling guarded about sharing your pregnancy news. After going through the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy loss or fertility challenges, while you may feel cautiously optimistic about the pregnancy, it’s also common to feel that it is unsafe to be purely hopeful or to plan too far into the future because of your positive pregnancy test. Research shows that women experiencing fertility challenges have high rates of both anxiety (86.8%) and depression (40.8%). The emotional trauma and corresponding anxiety and depression associated with this experience do not automatically disappear the moment you become pregnant.
It’s normal to continue experiencing a lingering “emotional hangover” from fertility challenges or pregnancy loss even after becoming pregnant. This can include heightened anxiety, feeling on edge, and feeling as though you are holding your breath throughout the early pregnancy roller coaster. The pregnancy, especially in the early stages, may feel surreal and after so much loss and disappointment, it may be hard for you to believe that this pregnancy will actually result in a real baby. Instead, you may be highly vigilant, searching for clues that the pregnancy will go awry or expecting the worst-case scenario to occur.
Luckily, just like those first trimester pregnancy symptoms, such feelings tend to gradually diminish later on in the pregnancy. Try not to compare yourself to friends who have had a different experience with TTC and may be more comfortable sharing their pregnancy news earlier on. If it feels protective for you to keep this news private for now, that’s okay! Don’t feel pressured to share until you are ready. There is more than enough time to share your pregnancy news once you feel more confident in the health of your pregnancy. This may be at the end of the first trimester (around 13 weeks), after the anatomy scan (around 20 weeks), or once you feel the daily reassurance of a baby kicking (closer to 22 weeks). You will know that you have reached the time that is right for you to share when it finally feels safe to be excited and to begin to visualize a possible future with your baby.
How to tell friends struggling with fertility challenges that you’re pregnant
When deciding how to tell TTC friends about your pregnancy, it is important to consider each friend’s particular TTC circumstances. You may want to be particularly sensitive to how you share your pregnancy news with friends who are struggling with fertility challenges. Given that about 10% of reproductive-aged women in the United States have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, it is likely that you have at least one friend who is experiencing fertility challenges or who has experienced a pregnancy loss.
You may be debating between the many ways you can share your pregnancy news and wondering what the best option is. Would it be better to tell them in person, or by phone? Should you email them, send a text message, or announce on social media? While our inclination is often to share happy news in person so that we can see the other person’s reaction, those who are having trouble becoming pregnant appreciate when a friend’s pregnancy news is shared in a manner that does not catch them off guard. If this is a close friend, you may want to consider sharing your news via text or email. This method of communicating will give your friend time and space to process this news privately and cope with any complicated emotions that arise without having to worry about how this will impact you.
Avoid personalizing friends’ reactions to your news
If a friend experiencing fertility challenges seems more muted in their response to your pregnancy announcement than you had expected or hoped for, try not to take it personally. Friends who are dealing with the emotional turmoil of fertility challenges may have a complex reaction to your news. While on the one hand they may be feeling happy and excited for you, at the same time, this news may be a painful reminder of their own struggles and may trigger feelings of sadness and frustration around not being able to have the child they long for. It is helpful to keep in mind that the process of undergoing fertility treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) is often a deeply distressing experience that has both an emotional and physical toll. Their emotions are likely amplified by hormones they are taking, and they are most likely not feeling like themselves. Certainly don’t feel guilty about your own pregnancy, but at the same time, try to give your friends who are struggling to conceive some leeway in their response.
Create an open dialogue
When you are weighing your options for how to tell a friend with fertility challenges about your pregnancy news, the best place to start is by fostering an open dialogue. Try to avoid “mind reading” or assuming that you know what your friend is thinking or what types of support are most helpful for them. Instead of guessing, ask what they need and how they are feeling!
Give your friend permission to process your news in whatever way they need to. If a friend needs space during your pregnancy, know that they are not upset with you (they still love you!), and try to respect this need. If you plan to have a baby shower, you may want to think ahead and give them permission to skip your shower or to stop by briefly but leave early if it feels overwhelming for them. You can let them know that you are willing to share or not share details of your pregnancy with them and that if it feels too difficult for them to hear about your pregnancy, remind them that you have other friends and sources of support that you can lean on during this time. Many women with fertility challenges will appreciate hearing that a friend is sensitive to what might be triggering or upsetting for them. Having an open dialogue will make your friend feel seen and more comfortable being emotionally honest with you.
Don’t avoid your friend!
While many good friends will be able to share in your pregnancy news with pure positivity and joy, some friends, particularly those who are coping with fertility challenges, may have complicated reactions. It is okay to feel sad that your friend cannot share your enthusiasm about your pregnancy in the way you wish they could, but know that they wish the best for you and will be eternally grateful for your sensitivity to their circumstances. Remember that there have been, and will be, plenty of other times when your friend can be more supportive and involved. If you are able to have open and honest conversations about how you both are feeling, this will only strengthen your friendship and allow you to feel heard and supported by each other.