I’m in my 33rd week of pregnancy, and up until getting pregnant myself, I had a hard time finding spaces where others talked about navigating pregnancy and maternity leave in private practice. In this article, I talk about how to tell clients you’re pregnant.
As an uber-planner, I started prepping for pregnancy two years before my husband and I had intended to start trying to get pregnant.
I know, I can be a little extra sometimes.
But I realized that all this planning was just my anxious side coming out. Whether you planned your pregnancy two years in advance or if you were happily surprised after realizing your cycle was late, this topic applies to all of us preggo ladies.
During this pregnancy, it’s been a learn-as-I go experience as far as how to tell clients I’m pregnant and navigating the entire preggo journey in private practice. So I hope to continue sharing what I learn as my journey unfolds.
For today, let’s dive into what I’ve learned about telling clients that you’re pregnant.
Do you Have to Tell Clients You’re Pregnant?
Not every therapist chooses to bring up their pregnancy to their clients. Your pregnancy is very personal! If you don’t want to ever bring it up, you don’t have to. I know more psychoanalytic-leaning therapists who choose to let their clients bring it up first, or who simply wait until it’s time to announce an upcoming leave.
Be sure to consider your needs as well as your clients’ in making the decision regarding whether and when to tell clients you’re pregnant.
How to Tell Clients You’re Pregnant
I had initially hoped to wait until around week 16 or 18 to start telling clients I was pregnant, but I was busting out of my pants by 10 weeks and I had trouble hiding my growing belly by 12 weeks. I personally made the choice to tell my clients I was pregnant around 13 weeks.
Here are a few tips that I learned along the way. Feel free to modify these to make them your own!
1. Choose timing that fits both you and your clients.
There’s no one-size-fits-all timing for when to share with clients. Some clients may not even notice your growing belly until you’re about to pop. Others may be sensitive to every tiny change you experience (this is particularly true among those with a history of eating disorders).
One of my specialties is working with clients who experience anxiety. For some of my clients, noticing that I was pregnant before I told them could bring up some anxiety around when I might go on leave, for how long, and questions around whether I’d still be in business after having a baby. For these clients, I wanted to balance letting them sit with some discomfort while not keeping them hanging for so long that they might become overly triggered.
Reflect on your clients as a whole and individually and take into consideration their needs in choosing a time to tell them you’re pregnant.
2. Factor in your own needs when you choose when to tell.
This is so important! Of course, we must not compromise our clients’ needs for the sake of our own, but we also need to run our practice in a way that balances our needs with our clients’. For me, I felt really uncomfortable with the idea of having to cover up my growing belly for the sake of keeping my pregnancy a secret. This went against my values of embracing who I am, including whatever my body looks like in any given season.
It was really easy to cover up my baby bump with baggy sweaters since it was wintertime early in my pregnancy, but I didn’t like the experience of double-checking every outfit I put on in the morning to make sure my bump didn’t show. I had to sift through several outfits sometimes to cover things up, and that entire process just didn’t seem healthy for me.
Because of this, I chose to tell clients relatively early. That way, I could feel the freedom to wear whatever I wanted and model embracing my body rather than exuding the negative energy I felt when I covered myself up.
3. You don’t have to have your maternity leave planned out before sharing.
This took me a quick second to get on board with. I’m such a planner that I believed I needed to have my entire maternity leave planned out in full detail before ever announcing that I was pregnant. However, with a bit of consultation support, I came to be comfortable simply announcing that I was pregnant and naming my intended start date of maternity leave. I let clients know that in the next couple of months I would keep them posted with more formal plans.
It only took a few more weeks for me to firm up my plans for maternity leave, and my clients didn’t seem to have any issues with the gap between those two announcements.
4. Consult in advance about any clients who may experience transference, or with whom you’re experiencing countertransference
It’s helpful to touch base with other therapists to consult about any particularly tricky cases. All the better if you know someone you can consult with who’s also had a baby while working in the profession themselves.
In particular, it’s important to take extra precaution around clients who have experienced miscarriage, infertility, or for whom they have yet to find a partner. I have several clients who fall into these categories, so it was extra important for me to consult on how to navigate each case in a therapeutically sound manner.
5. Start by telling the “easiest” clients first.
Though we can never know in advance how each client will react, we often have a sense of who may have a fairly neutral or positive reaction to the news that we’re pregnant. I found that my clients who were either younger (e.g., college-age) or who already had children tended to have the most accepting and joyful reactions.
Starting here will allow you to learn as you go before working up to telling clients who may have a stronger reaction.
6. Be prepared for delayed transference – even as you’re about to go on leave.
I have yet to go on leave at this point, and many of my clients remain positive even as my leave is just 4 weeks away now. But I’ve heard this story from many colleagues:
Clients have a positive reaction to the initial news that we’re pregnant, but a week before maternity leave arrives they enter a crisis state. Anticipate that you may have a couple of clients who react later in the process. Have a few designated colleagues available for your clients to reach out to while you’re on leave should they not realize they’re in need of additional support until after you’re no longer available.
7. Consider telling potential clients that you’ll be going on leave.
Once you start telling existing clients that you’re pregnant, you may want to consider when you will stop taking new clients. Some therapists opt to disclose that they’re pregnant to potential clients and let them decide, while others choose a hard date to stop taking new clients. I’ve chosen a hybrid of this. Initially I let potential clients know that I will go on leave starting in August, letting them decide if they wished to schedule with me or not. I let this last through the second trimester, and around the beginning of my third trimester I stopped accepting new clients. This was to ensure that I would have time to allow my current caseload to stabilize before going on leave.
8. It’s normal to experience morning sickness in session!
This was a huge fear of mine going into pregnancy – how would I navigate morning sickness without letting it disrupt therapy? I did adjust my schedule so that I no longer saw clients before 10:00am, but that didn’t mean morning sickness didn’t disrupt therapy at all! I had a couple of bad days when I needed to cancel all of my sessions on short notice, and a couple of times when I needed to excuse myself mid-session to run to the bathroom. It is what it is. But I learned that living in fear of those moments wasn’t helpful, I just needed to accept my process as it unfolded and to allow myself the flexibility to adapt to whatever came up.
Everyone has their own way of sharing with their clients that they’re pregnant. Be sure to adapt these tips to fit you and your clients’ needs.
You’ll be hearing from me in the future with updates about how to do maternity leave in private practice, so stay tuned for that!
To those of you who are preggos: congrats! And until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!