Determining When to Disclose Your Pregnancy at Work

Two women speaking in a meeting

What should you consider around when to announce your pregnancy at work?

You recently found out that you are pregnant. Congratulations! One of the more common questions around this time is when should you start telling people, especially those that you work with. The timeline for that is more of an art than a science; there aren’t any hard and fast rules because it isn’t a one size fits all approach. Determining when to disclose your pregnancy at work will be dependent on many factors including how you feel during pregnancy, if you are showing or not, what kind of work you do, how family-friendly your company is (or is not), and many others.

There is no universal perfect time to announce a pregnancy, but here are some things to consider when planning your announcement in the workplace.

What is the ideal time to tell your boss, coworkers and/or direct reports about your pregnancy?

Many women tend to disclose their pregnancies during the end of their first trimester or early into the second trimester as a general rule. This is usually due to the higher risk of miscarriage early on in the pregnancy but there are a few reasons you might find yourself waiting to disclose your pregnancy at work.

Potential reasons to wait on disclosing your pregnancy:

  • If you are still adjusting to the idea of being pregnant
  • If you want to create a rough plan for your pregnancy and maternity leave before bringing it up
  • If you are up for a promotion or close to finalizing a big project you might prefer to wait until this is finalized.
  • And many more completely valid reasons…

However, waiting may not be possible if you are experiencing severe morning sickness or other medical issues early on, or you work in a role that has strenuous physical activities. If your company is very family-friendly, or for any other personal reason, then you may want to disclose your pregnancy earlier on. 

In short, the timing of your pregnancy announcement is largely subjective, based on personal experience and your specific circumstances at work. However, a good rule of thumb is that it’s always better to disclose your pregnancy at work before it becomes obvious. This is for the benefit of trust and confidence in your working relationships and also to avoid people making any negative assumptions about a joyous occasion in your life.

When considering telling your company and coworkers about your pregnancy, you should always let your boss be the first to know, but you should tell everyone that you work closely with around roughly the same time to avoid any office gossip pitfalls. However, it could be better to wait until you and your manager have determined who will cover for you while you are on leave before telling coworkers or direct reports.

If you aren’t comfortable telling your immediate supervisor right away, reach out to your company’s human resources department if that is available to discuss your options.

Things to take into consideration

Personal Considerations

There are quite a few personal considerations to take into account when determining the timeline for disclosing your pregnancy at work.

One of the most common is the risk of miscarriage. Due to this, many women wait until the end of the first trimester, when their risk of miscarriage declines considerably. Other women might wait until the end of the fourth month when they can see results for an amniocentesis or until after their first prenatal visit when the doctor confirms everything is going well with the baby’s development.

Either way, this is a choice you must be comfortable with and take into consideration when determining to announce your pregnancy, both at work and beyond.

You’ll also want to consider how you're feeling and how that comes into play in your workplace. If morning sickness has you making mad dashes to the bathroom regularly, you may have to announce your pregnancy sooner than you had hoped. 

Take into account, also, your own personality. If you are a more private person and don’t want to share something that feels personal or have your colleagues make a big deal out of your pregnancy, then you may want to wait longer. On the other hand, if you are close friends with your coworkers and want to celebrate the good news with them, you may make the announcement sooner.

Professional Considerations

When thinking about disclosing your pregnancy, start by considering what kind of work you do. If your job is particularly strenuous or exposes you to harmful chemicals, talk to your boss sooner rather than later so you can ask for a transfer or change of duties, if possible.

Then consider how work is going in general. Although it may be unfair, you might want to wait on your announcement until after you score a big deal, finish a looming report or execute on your latest great idea. This could potentially help mitigate any concerns about your work in relation to your pregnancy. On a related note, if you have a review coming up, you may want to wait for that to pass as well—especially if you're afraid your announcement might influence the results of an upcoming performance or salary review.

Finally, be honest with yourself about how family-friendly your company is. You can discreetly ask coworkers about their experience with past pregnancy announcements and family leave to find out more. Or reach out to your human resources department to see what benefits are available to you. If you think your boss (or company) won’t be welcoming to the news, you may want to wait until the 20-week mark if possible to show your ability to continue to do your job well while pregnant. If, however, you're confident that your employer will take the news well, share it as soon as you're comfortable in order to take full advantage of any special benefits (such as flex time) your company may offer.

To help make your decision, you may want to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have a high-risk pregnancy or other factors that increase my miscarriage risk?
  • Will telling everyone make me feel more comfortable, or less comfortable?
  • Do I have certain work or lifestyle factors that make telling sooner important?
  • Do I want a large network of support if something happens?

Know your rights

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 is the federal law that protects workers from being discriminated against by their employers for being pregnant. It covers all aspects of employment, from hiring and firing to pay, promotions, training and benefits. It also stipulates that if you're pregnant and unable to do any part of your job, your employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation for you just as they would for a temporarily disabled employee.

Unfortunately there are many expecting women that do find out they are treated differently (for example, being let go or being passed up for promotions) due to a number of loopholes in the PDA, so be aware of your rights and seek legal advice if you feel that you are being treated unfairly. And be aware, you actually do need to disclose your pregnancy to be protected by the PDA.

Look into your company policies regarding pregnancy rights and maternity leave. And if it doesn’t seem promising, consider joining forces with others in your company to petition for better parental perks. Making sure that similar allowances are made for employees who must take time off to care for sick spouses or parents may help unite you with other childless workers.

The choice is up to you

As we said above, a lot of women choose to announce their pregnancy at the end of the first trimester because the risk of miscarriage is greatly reduced and their pregnancy “bump” may no longer be easy to hide. Of course, announcing at the 12-week mark isn’t required and the choice is entirely up to you. 

The most important factor in determining when to disclose a pregnancy is your personal comfort level and your needs around what is best for your individual pregnancy. Just be sure that you give your employer a reasonable amount of time to prepare for your pregnancy leave and keep in mind that sooner is often better—unless there is a strong reason to wait.

📖 Read more: Managing Pregnancy & Work

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