Concealed pregnancies

 

Sir, – The recent case of baby Maria who was found by a passerby in Rathcoole in Dublin is a reminder of Ireland’s sad legacy of concealing pregnancy in traumatic and difficult circumstances (“Plea for mother to come forward after newborn found”, May 9th).

There are many views, strongly held, by those who have not been affected as to why women conceal a pregnancy and it is not uncommon for those perceptions to be negative. However, the expression of personal opinions without evidence can hurt many women currently and previously affected by this traumatic event. Sensationalist headlines in some media outlets such as “bin bag tot”, “dumped baby”, and “Come and get your little baby Maria” are irresponsible and may in fact militate against the woman concerned coming forward.

The case of Baby Maria reminds us that concealed pregnancy is not an historical phenomenon but is very much a part of life in the 21st century, as women continue to face crisis pregnancies in fear and with an absence of support.

In order to explore and understand why women have and continue to conceal their pregnancies we are undertaking a study of concealed pregnancy called Keeping it Secret (The KISS Study), which has been funded by the Health Research Board. Women have told us that the reasons for concealing a pregnancy are complex and are not limited to age, marital status or educational background. We welcome the coverage that has emphasised that women need support and should not fear any threat of prosecution.

However, we are concerned that the requests for the woman to come forward and access medical and social assistance are being linked with the reunification of mother and baby. Our research has identified that some women are afraid to access support for fear it will result in a situation whereby they feel obligated to mother their infant. Consequently, we are cautioning against this association.

It is essential that women who conceal a pregnancy have access to supportive, responsive care as keeping a pregnancy secret from those close is always traumatic and carries consequences for the mother and her infant. – Yours, etc,

SYLVIA MURPHY TIGHE,

Health Research Board

Research Fellow;

JOAN G LALOR,

Associate Professor,

School of Nursing

and Midwifery,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.