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Abuse while I was pregnant was hateful and cruel, says Meghan

The Duchess of Sussex has revealed she received “hateful” abuse on social media while she was pregnant with both of her children, saying it was “cruel”.

Appearing on a panel at the SXSW Conference in Texas to mark International Women’s Day, Meghan was asked how she dealt with “endless toxicity” online.

The duchess said “for my wellbeing” she “keeps distance” from social media now, but added that she suffered “the bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing” while she was pregnant with both Archie and Lilibet.

With Prince Harry sitting in the front row of the conference, Meghan said: “You just think about that and to wrap your head about why people would be so hateful.

“It’s not catty, it’s cruel. Why you would do that when you’re pregnant or as a mum at such a tender and sacred time?”

Prince Harry waits for his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to take the stage during a keynote on women’s representation in media and entertainment in Austin, Texas, on International Women's Day 2024. Pic: Reuters
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Harry watched the keynote speech from the front row. Pic: Reuters

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, left, and Katie Couric, centre, react as Brooke Shields, right, tells a story during a keynote on women's representation in media and entertainment on International Women's Day 2024. Pic: REUTERS/Nuri Vallbona
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Meghan appeared alongside actress Brooke Shields (right). Pic: Reuters

She added: “You could succumb to it, or nearly succumb to how painful that is.

“Or maybe because I was pregnant that mammalian instinct just kicks in to do everything you can to protect your child and as a result protect yourself too.”

Prince Archie was born in May 2019, while Princess Lilibet was born in California in June 2021 after the Sussexes moved to the US.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, waits for other panellists to take the stage during a keynote speech on women's representation in media and entertainment in Austin, Texas, on International Women's Day 2024. Also pictured are Errin Haines, left, and Katie Couric, right. Pic: Reuters
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Pic: Reuters

Described by the event’s organisers as a “visionary female leader”, Meghan appeared on a panel which included actress Brooke Shields, 58.

After explaining how at the age of 11 she campaigned to get a sexist advert changed, Meghan said: “Your voice is not small, it just needs to be heard.”

The 42-year-old added: “It’s funny to look back at it now as it was before social media where you had a reach that was so much greater – it was just an 11-year-old with a pen and paper – but goes to show if you know there is something wrong and you’re using your voice to advocate for what is right, that really lands and resonates with people.”

Recalling her starring role in the 1978 film Pretty Baby, Shields joked in response: “This is one of the ways we’re different – when I was 11 I was playing a prostitute.”

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Previously, Meghan has said she was the world’s most trolled person in 2019.

In a podcast to mark World Mental Health Day, she said the impact on her health was “so damaging”.

“I wasn’t even visible, I was on maternity leave with the baby – but what was able to be manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable, it’s so big you can’t even think what that feels like,” she said.

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