Sunday 18 February 2018

Concealed pregnancies are an 'ongoing' situation in Ireland - researchers

Two weeks ago, Baby Maria was found abandoned near Rathcoole in Dublin
Two weeks ago, Baby Maria was found abandoned near Rathcoole in Dublin Newsdesk Newsdesk

Researchers in Trinity College Dublin have warned that concealed pregnancies are “an ongoing situation” for many women in Ireland.

Concealed pregnancies are not confined to age or marital status, they have said.

Two weeks ago, Baby Maria was found abandoned at a gate to a field around 3.30pm near Rathcoole in Dublin. The baby was found wrapped in a blanket and black plastic refuse bag which was in a Marks and Spencers shopping bag on May 8.

Researchers and experienced midwives in the School of Nursing and Midwifery in TCD have said that despite a popular belief that concealed pregnancies are a thing of the past from the era of the mother and baby homes, they are in fact an ongoing situation for many women in Ireland today.

Researcher Sylvia Murphy Tighe said: “There may be a sense in society that only teenagers conceal pregnancies. However, our research and the experience of midwives, social workers and GPs have confirmed that women of all ages, including older women and women within and outside of relationships may keep their pregnancy secret.”

“The reasons for concealment vary widely and can include financial concerns, cultural and/or religious influences, power and dynamics in the relationship, domestic abuse, the lack of a partner or boyfriend, parental opinion and age,” she said.

In order to explore and understand why women have and continue to conceal their pregnancies Ms Tighe and Professor Joan Lalor are undertaking a study of concealed pregnancy called Keeping It Secret (The KISS study).

They believe concealed pregnancy is a situation that still needs our attention and understanding.

A concealed or hidden pregnancy is a situation where a woman hides her pregnancy and keeps it secret from her family and social network.

Researchers say this can lead to delayed or no antenatal care, negative health outcomes or tragic consequences such as maternal or neonatal death.

Studies have placed the numbers of concealed pregnancies between 1 in 403 (rural Ireland) and 1 in 625 cases (Dublin) where the pregnancy has been concealed up to 20 weeks.

A 2012 case control study by NUI, Galway found the prevalence rate even higher at 1 in 148 cases up to 20 weeks gestation.

Last year, researchers appealed to women who have concealed a pregnancy in the past or who are currently keeping their pregnancy a secret to come forward and share their story.

Professor Lalor said: “We know that a concealed pregnancy can be a difficult experience and sensitive time for the woman concerned. Despite guidelines there is a need for care pathways for women who wish to keep their pregnancy secret whilst also being able to access support and antenatal care.”

“For too long healthcare professionals have shaped policy. It is now time to hear the voices and experiences of women so we can respond more effectively, help shape policy and assist in the development of care pathways for women in Ireland today,” she added.

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