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Britney Spears announced miscarriage and broke pregnancy taboo

I cracked up when I saw Britney Spears announce last month that she had just gotten pregnant.

As someone who had four miscarriages before our daughter was born, I know how precarious pregnancy is – and how many end in early miscarriages. Ten to 20% of known pregnancies result in miscarriage. And older women like Spears have an even higher risk of miscarriage: At age 35, there’s a 20 percent risk, according to the Mayo Clinic, and at age 40 (Spears’ age), the risk is by 40%.

So when the pop icon gleefully revealed the news to her 41.2 million Instagram followers in April, my instant reaction was, “Oh, no.” I was worried she might have a miscarriage and sadly on Saturday she took to Instagram again to let the public know she had lost her ‘miracle baby’.

For many women, pregnancy is a joyous time: as soon as they get that first positive pregnancy test (or urinate on five sticks), they want to wave it around and show it off to everyone they know. But for someone like me – who waved her first positive pregnancy test like a magic wand – after experiencing a loss, you get nervous about pregnancy announcements, especially at first.

This is why many women don’t tell anyone but their partner and maybe one or two close friends or family. Many are waiting until the end of the first quarter to share the news, or even longer. In the Jewish community, where so many of us are so superstitious, we don’t have baby showers until after the baby is born, the correct answer when learning that someone is pregnant is not “mazel tov” or “congratulations” but “b’sha’a tova,” meaning “everything in due time” or “good luck”.

There are good reasons to delay pregnancy announcement, as about 80% of all miscarriages occur in the first trimester. But there are also issues with hiding your pregnancy, so maybe it’s time to let people share the news early on. Maybe they shouldn’t have to wait until they show up.

The message of keeping a new pregnancy a secret can feel shameful, not joyful. When you’re pregnant, there are actually happy hormones running through your body – that glow! – and you can be so excited. It’s hard and wrong to keep such good news inside – and in these troubled times, we need all the good news we can get.

There may also be an additional physical cost to remember. Instead of a glow, many women experience a greener tint due to early pregnancy nausea. About 70% of women experience morning sickness in the first trimester, with a small percentage of women, like Amy Schumer, having extreme morning sickness throughout pregnancy, known as hyperemesis gravidarum.

More than a bump on your stomach, it can be hard to hide for a month or more, especially if you work in an office. It’s hard enough to navigate the workplace during pregnancy, with some women needing more flexibility for doctor’s appointments, exhaustion, heartburn and nausea. Others worry that their competence may also be in question due to the “brain fog” of pregnancy. Keeping it all hidden can make the experience even worse.

Yet there is also pressure to remain silent about pregnancy due to discrimination. According to a recent survey, one in five mothers say they have “experienced pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace”. Some 23% have “considered quitting their job due to a lack of reasonable accommodation or fear of discrimination during a pregnancy”.

Executives and celebrities like Spears, of course, may not have to hide their pregnancies for fear of discrimination. In fact, when their body is the focus of their brand, they may want to show off their baby bumps (think Beyoncé).

For Spears, the early pregnancy announcement wasn’t just about showing off a cute little belly. It was a party. She’s wanted to have another baby for years (she has two teenage sons with Kevin Federline), but said the guardianship she was in until November forbidden prevent her from removing her IUD, a long-term contraceptive device. No wonder she posted a video last month with the lyrics of Ace of Base “All she wants is another baby.”

So despite my miscarriage struggles, I can understand why Spears wanted to share pregnancy news — even though it seemed very early, which she acknowledged in her miscarriage announcement: “Maybe we should have wait to announce until we are more advanced, but we were too excited to share the good news,” they said on Saturday. “This is a devastating time for any parent.”

I know how devastating a miscarriage can be. It’s not just the loss of the beginning of a life that you nurtured within you; it is the loss of a whole future that is offered to you. For me, it had an emotional and physical impact, with the changing hormonal roller coaster leaving me empty and lethargic.

If we really want to remove the shame of miscarriage, we need to remove the stigma of an early pregnancy announcement.

I chose to suffer these sequelae in silence. I hadn’t told many people I was pregnant, and it seemed embarrassing to tell them I had had a miscarriage afterwards. I was also ashamed of my body for letting me down, like I was too old, too broken. In a national survey of public perceptions of miscarriages published in 2015, among respondents who had had a miscarriage themselves or whose partner had had a miscarriage, 41% said they felt “they had done something wrong”, 41% felt “lonely” and 28% felt “shameful”.

Women shouldn’t have to feel that way. We shouldn’t have to hide our first pregnancies, nor their endings. We need help coping with the pregnancy as soon as it starts, and then, if it doesn’t work out, we need help coping with our loss with time off, rest, and recovery.

If we really want to remove the shame of miscarriage, we need to remove the stigma of an early pregnancy announcement.

And so, to Britney Spears and Sam Asghari, who announced that they “will continue to try to grow our beautiful family”, I wish you a baby bump very soon. And I won’t cringe if you decide to announce it early next time.


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