Some married women hiding their pregnancies
FEELINGS of stigma can still lead to women concealing their pregnancy and hiding it from others in modern-day Ireland, according to researchers.
And the notion that teenagers are the only age group to cloak a pregnancy is wrong, with evidence that included women from 18 to 26 years. But there were also married and single women older and younger than this age group.
Sylvia Murphy Tighe and Joan Lalor of Trinity College's School of Nursing and Midwifery want to speak to these women as part of their Keeping it Secret study.
The secrecy carries considerable risk and can have tragic consequences, they wrote in 'Forum', the journal of the Irish College of General Practitioners.
"Concealment refers to a situation where a woman is aware of the pregnancy but consciously chooses to hide it from others" and can have significant implications for maternal and fetal well-being, while women can experience psychological distress, embarrassment, stigma and isolation.
The delay in getting medical care during pregnancy may also lead to complications such as pre-eclampsia. Other risks include post-partum haemorrhage and death.
The baby can be put in danger because of the failure to detect treatable abnormalities while other risks include malnutrition, prematurity, low birth weight and birth injuries.
The researchers said the reasons for concealing a pregnancy were complex and could include social factors such as the "stigma of lone motherhood, financial insecurity and religious beliefs about abortion".
There may be difficult family situations and keeping a pregnancy secret "can be a coping strategy that enables women to maintain control over the outcome of the pregnancy". They added: "Sexual attitudes are more conservative in Ireland than in other European countries.
"Concealed pregnancy is not rare and impacts on maternal and neonatal outcomes."
The researchers can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 087 981 7340.