“Finally, it was my turn.”
When Peta Drury was struggling to fall pregnant, other people’s ‘bumpdates’ and birth announcements on social media were torment.
But after six months of IVF, Peta got the news she was going to be a mum.
Her mind immediately turned to sharing the excitement online.
“I was looking forward to sharing all my ultrasound photos and ‘baby bump’ snaps on Facebook, and seeing all the likes and comments those photos would attract,” she says.
But at her 12-week scan, things weren’t looking good. And at 18 weeks, her twin girls died.
Peta deleted Facebook. She says doing so helped her heal.
Every day in Australia, 282 women report pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation. One in four pregnancies will end before 12 weeks.
But recent survey results from the Pink Elephants Support Network, a charity supporting women through miscarriage, show almost 70 per cent of women who experience a miscarriage say they receive no support at all.
With that in mind, is there something to gain from sharing a pregnancy loss on social media?
Or should we be thinking more carefully before announcing a pregnancy online in the first place?
Announcing a pregnancy on social media
The benefits of announcing your pregnancy on social media include it being an easy way to let people know, and receiving “immediate gratification”, explains sociologist Meredith Nash.
“People will give you likes, say congratulations, ask questions — it’s one of the first moments pregnant women start to feel like mothers,” she says.
But at the same time, Dr Nash says pregnancy is still an “uncertain experience”. There can be surprises down the track, even if you follow the “12-week medical rule”.
Dr Nash says if women want to share their pregnancy online, they should feel empowered to do so, but warns it’s worth considering the potential outcomes.
“Women really need to think about, ‘What will I do if something happens with the pregnancy and I have to tell people? How will I feel about that?'”
When and how to announce a pregnancy is a personal choice, says Pink Elephant Support Network co-founder Gabbi Armstrong.
She says women should feel free to share their pregnancy news at any stage that is comfortable for them.
“Some people feel like they need to wait to get the OK at the 12-week scan,” she says.
“The flip side of that is, if you don’t tell anyone [before then], whether it be on social media or otherwise, and something happens, you may find yourself isolated from support you’d potentially otherwise have.”
You may also like to consider who will see your posts.
Peta, who has since given birth to a son and is expecting another baby in November, says support groups have educated her about how triggering pregnancy posts can be.
For that reason, Peta announced she was expecting her son on Instagram using a blue background with small text — something she knew was less likely to cause upset.
“I didn’t use a picture because I’ve learnt … that is very triggering.”
That’s true for the people Ms Armstrong has supported through pregnancy loss.
“Any given day among Facebook friends, particularly when you are in the baby-making age, you will come across a pregnancy belly picture, or birth announcement. And when you are deep in the trenches of heartache or loss, it can be really confronting.”
When things don’t go to plan
When Peta lost her twins, she says online support networks (which she joined when discovering the outlook for her babies was grim) made things harder.
“I was pretty distressed. It’s a very traumatic thing to go through,” she says.
“Women mean well, but I was getting a lot of messages, constant bombardment, wanting updates, wanting to offer support, which I found really overwhelming.
Dr Nash says the ramifications of sharing your life on social media are much deeper when you experience a trauma like losing your babies.
But if someone is comfortable sharing their pregnancy loss on social media, that’s not a bad thing, she says.
“As much as women might hesitate to go back and announce a miscarriage, the same people who congratulated you will support you in a loss.”
Ms Armstrong says it can also have a wider impact.
“It helps women and men feel less alone and society to become a little more understanding of the grief associated with pregnancy loss and how common it is,” she says.
“In terms of negatives, you open yourself up to some not so helpful comments.”
Couples and family therapist Jennifer Douglas from Relationships Australia NSW says people should check in with themselves before sharing sad news, to make sure they are ready.
“It can be helpful to share a story, but in the first instance to give yourself the space to come to terms and process some of the grief,” she says.
“Make sure you have good support around you first before you talk about it more broadly.”
The bottom line — do what you’re comfortable with
All of the experts we spoke to agreed there was no wrong or right when it came to announcing a pregnancy or miscarriage on social media.
The resounding advice was to consider the potential outcomes and how you would handle them, then do what feels right for you.