6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pregnant Woman and Why

Image modified from Flickr/ www.photographybyjoelle.com
Image modified from Flickr/ www.photographybyjoelle.com

Pregnancy is such a fun time, and I've found that since going through it and raising children, I have a deeper bond with women — an understanding that seems to come with this life experience. I have had long conversations about parenting styles, parenting questions, choices, and reminiscing over childbirth and those first few weeks. I love hearing other women's stories, but one thing I don't care for when I am walking around with a growing baby bump is questions and inquisitions from strangers. 

No longer can we expect strangers to keep their hands to themselves or their opinions either.

There's this thing that seems to happen during pregnancy — general society tends to forget or disregard the normal and understood social boundaries. No longer can we expect strangers to keep their hands to themselves or their opinions either. Pregnancy is like an open invitation to strange and personal questions that no one would dare ask a non-pregnant woman and that's not cool in my books. 

If you've spotted a pregnant woman in public and you're tempted to open your mouth to say one of these six things, I'll offer my advice: don't.

Image via Flickr/ sapienssolutions
Image via Flickr/ sapienssolutions

What are you having?

I have been asked this question a lot this pregnancy and while I know people are really wondering if I am expecting a boy or a girl, this question is asked so much I usually answer with “a human baby”. I have found that if I answer with the gender we are expecting, I am met with either the assumption that we're wildly happy or that we wanted the opposite gender. It's an even more loaded question if you've got only boys or girls — like you should automatically wish for the other side. Regardless, while the question in isolation isn't bad – the commentary that follows should be carefully thought out. 

Image via Flickr/pixydust8605
Image via Flickr/pixydust8605

How much weight have you gained?

Just NO! It's not an appropriate question to ask anyone and most people abide by that social boundary until a woman is carrying a baby in her uterus. It's better to say something like “Wow, you look amazing!” and not get  into what the scale is saying – there's simply too much focus on weight. 

Image via Flickr/ roland
Image via Flickr/ roland

Are you going to have a natural birth?

There are so many “mommy wars” out there in the pregnancy and parenting world that this question just sounds like a set-up for an uncomfortable conversation. It's bizarre how strangers feel okay to ask this when you're out in public and even more uncomfortable when they launch into a detailed explanation of how they birthed and why. I don't always like to explain why we've had to induce in my three children's births and why we will be having a c-section this time around because I often find that I'll get responses that are bound to cause me to eye roll a little. 

Image via Flickr/ www.photographybyjoelle.com
Image via Flickr/ www.photographybyjoelle.com

My labor was horrible!

I am all for telling the truth and being honest with information, but scaring a woman who is about to give birth by telling them the story of your horrible experience or the story of your friend's brother's cousin who had this rare and terrible thing happen to them is just not helpful in any sense. It's a conversation is better to have after she's had the baby and when you can for sure be honest without scaring the baby out of someone. 

Image via Flickr/ genpink
Image via Flickr/ genpink

Do you have stretch marks?

It's not nice because either way you answer it, you're sure to be setting yourself up for some more unwanted conversation. Also, who asks this? Apparently it's not something other people feel uncomfortable to ask about a woman's changing pregnant shape because I've not only been asked this, I've also been told, unsolicited, how to avoid getting them, like they're the worst thing ever. 

Image via Flickr/ storyvillegirl
Image via Flickr/ storyvillegirl

Was it planned?

 I don't know why people feel this is at all appropriate to ask someone else, but I have personally been asked this one too. I've wondered if it's because I was young when I had my kids or because others feel like maybe 4 kids is not something a family would plan, but I really can't wrap my head about why this is something people feel okay asking anyone. 

:: What phrase or question do you think should be off-limits to ask pregnant women? ::

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What do you think?

6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pregnant Woman and Why

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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44 comments

  1. Profile photo of Amie Amie says:

    I agree completely. Small talk is one thing, but a lot of people get down right intrusive. The one I both hate and love (depending on who’s saying it) is “can I touch your belly” or worse, when they just touch your belly and follow up with “you must feel so blessed” or something…. also I’d like to add that I feel like horror stories from anyone is just not appropriate, don’t lie, but details are not necessary. I am battling this with my baby’s father right now. He had two kids with his, now, ex wife. Apparently it was horrible because his kids are monstrously huge…. So, of course now I’m paranoid. *gaaaaah!*

    • Profile photo of Amie Amie says:

      Oh, also, when people ask me what I’m having I usually respond with “I’m pretty sure a human, but… It could be a raptor/t-rex/whatever other dino comes to mind” .

  2. Profile photo of Lisa Lisa says:

    Never ever ask about the father if he is not there with them!!!! It could be as simple as he’s at work, as typical as they were irresponsible and he’s not around. It could also be very upsetting if he has passed away, terribly wronged her, or even the chance of rape. I try not to get upset when people make a comment like “oh your husband must be excited.” Gee, thanks for making me feel like shit for not having a husband. I was engaged and I found out at 21 weeks that he was hiding a dark secret and I turned him into the police and he is going to prison. It’s even worse because he was to be the step father to my 2 sons and what I found was child porn. Thankfully not of my kids or he would be in a morgue, not prison but it gets very upsetting having to go into details with complete strangers about something so personal a dozen times every time I leave the house. Even worse is when they become nosey and start asking about THEIR father too! Him I was married to and he became abusive. After I have to spend 5 minutes telling every nosey stranger my life story, then it’s either awkward or they stare at me like a puppy missing a leg. I’m not a wounded animal. I’m a woman just like any other. I have had shit luck but I am trying to move on and your pity stares and comments are not going to help that!

    • Profile photo of Amie Amie says:

      Yeah, I hate father questions too. It’s no one’s business. But you bring up a great point on the “husband” thing. I’m recently divorced, my ex is not the father. I HATE when people write articles assuming you are married. Why can’t they just say “partner” or something. And people in person saying “you and your husband must be so happy” just makes me want to slap them. It’s 2016 people ! How do you even know I’m not gay ? Just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean anything.

  3. Profile photo of Ashley Ashley says:

    I agree with most of the comments already posted. I hate being asked if I’m sure I’m not having twins because I’m ‘huge’. I have gained a little more weight that I wanted, but that’s my business as long as my son is healthy. It’s scary to hear how much it’s going to hurt. I don’t care if they are joking or not, this is my first child and I need encouragement not horror stories!! LOL

  4. Profile photo of laura laura says:

    I got the “but you’re so small!” All the way until my last 3 weeks. It actually gave me a complex that I had to adress with my doctor. She was so mad for me! Even if you think a woman is too small or large, shut your damn mouth! Especially if it’s her first!

  5. Profile photo of Meaghan Meaghan says:

    “You’re huge!” or “You must be having twins.” Hahaha. -_-

  6. Profile photo of jennifer jennifer says:

    “Are you going to get fixed after this one?” I heard that a few times while I was pregnant for my 3rd. I am not a dog, I am not going to get “fixed”. Also, is there some unspoken rule that people can’t have more than 3 kids? That is a decision for my husband and I to make and NO ONE else gets a vote!

  7. Profile photo of Leebah Leebah says:

    I am 32 weeks with baby no3 I already have a girl and a boy and married, what makes me really angry is people commenting “Oh I hope this is your last one!” like I am such a terrible mom to my other 2 kids so how can I have more. Not that we are planning any more but still, this is not something you say to people. How many kids I have is my choice as long as I can take care of them 🙂

  8. Profile photo of Meghan Meghan says:

    I like these. I’m pretty easy going when it comes to other people commenting on my pregnancies, but there are some things I’m surprised people say. I’m 28 and just found out I’m pregnant with our 3rd. I’ve got 2 boys already and we tend to have rather large babies, so I’m expecting most of these questions in the coming months. I’ve figured out what works for me when giving birth, so if anyone judges, it’s their problem, not mine.

    I wish all you new mothers luck! I know you know it changes your life, but what got me were the ways they changed me that I never even considered. It’s an incredible experience and everyone experiences it differently. Good luck and I know you’ll enjoy (almost) every minute! 🙂

    Also, never let other people upset you. You are always able to tell them to go away or that it’s none of their business. They’re the ones who want to know, it’s their problem if you don’t tell them. I always turned it into a joke. With my first, I was HUGE! I carried him far forward and he came out 10 lbs, 2 oz. I got so many “twins” and “basketball/beachball” comments from my coworkers that they just became an every day thing. I knew how big I was, and I knew these comments weren’t malicious, they were simply a way for them to try to relate to something they weren’t really sure how to relate to.

  9. Profile photo of corind corind says:

    it annoys me when people ask if ive had any weird cravings. I was always that odd ball chick that put ketchup on everything and mixed random foods, so anything outside of human flesh is not weird for me

  10. Profile photo of Estefania Estefania says:

    Love this article!!!

  11. Profile photo of Kira Kira says:

    I don’t know how many times I was asked if I was married. When my answer was no; a lot of people just looked at me
    sympathetically and asked me if I planned on getting married. One lady even told me
    that considering my marital status I needed to get my child into a good church.

  12. Profile photo of Ale Ale says:

    One thing that bugs me so much is that people always ask me how old I am and if I’m married.. I’m 19 and 28 weeks with first baby and yes married but it is none of their business…another one is watch from now till the end you will double or triple in size I have a feeling they only say that because I’m fairly small for being 7 months.

  13. Profile photo of Brandi Brandi says:

    One question I have been asked and also my husband has been “How did it happen?” It’s like really why would you ask that when you have conceived children yourself?

  14. Profile photo of Geanella Geanella says:

    The stupid comment and question I get at my job is if I’m sure I’m not having twins??… I hate when they ask me this. Especially when it comes from this specific cow-worker that I don’t like very much… It kind of makes me hate her for having a big mouth. I feel like telling her.. Mind your business.

  15. Profile photo of Brandy Brandy says:

    Are you having a BIG baby this time? Never ask me that. Even if it’s true I’m not going to share that info.

  16. Profile photo of LisaThomas LisaThomas says:

    I did enjoy receiving most positive comments by well -meaning strangers because it’s nice to have others share in the joy. The question that drove me the most crazy was, “Is it twins?” (the implication being that no one should possibly be so huge with just one baby inside).

  17. Profile photo of kimberly kimberly says:

    people say these things to me all the time and its ANNOYING!!! you forgot a couple though! I have always been a heathy eater and people see me now with my greek yogurt and berries or whatever and I hear “oh it’s nice to see you eating healthy for the baby” or “good to see you finally eating healthy”. It’s rude because I’ve always been like that. Or my personal “fave” (since this is my first) whenever i am out and a baby is crying i get told “get use to that” or you cant do this, that, or the other with the new baby. I understand our entire life is about to change and things will never be the same but people are not helpful and are just rude sometimes. really doc obvious like i didnt know this was going to happen. the only one that has the right to critique or say anything is my doctor.

  18. Profile photo of Carri Carri says:

    I don’t agree with this article at all. If you’re sensitive to the things people ask, politely tell them. I’m 35 weeks and have yet to have ANYONE say anything about me being pregnant. There are thousands of women who struggle with depression during pregnancy, that could be helped by knowing that others care. But because of articles like this and snappy pregnant women they’re scared to say anything at all. People talking to you about your pregnancy just shows they care. It’s always nice to know other people care about you and want to be involved in your life. Sure people may not always portray that we’ll, but it restores faith in humanity to know that other people are joyful for someone they don’t even know.

    • Profile photo of Lisa Lisa says:

      It’s fine to care but have some basic manners and choose an appropriate subject. Like, when are you due? Is the baby kicking much? Something that isn’t invasive or offensive

      • Profile photo of Amie Amie says:

        I agree. There is a difference between caring and being intrusive. I for one, understand the depression thing first hand. I’m happy I’m pregnant, but the father and I do not have the best relationship and I still blame him for getting me pregnant (I’m getting over it, but it’s still raw) so, questions about the father sting and comments about being excited force me to lie. Sure I am kind of excited, now… But I definitely was more scared than excited and still am some days. So, now that I’m showing, I tend to avoid public places if I’m feeling down, because I don’t want the attention… And I shouldn’t have to. So, it goes both ways. If it was planned, or you’re happy about being pregnant and feeling down, comments from strangers can definitely lift your spirits. But if you’re already feeling down about things, unsolicited comments and advice or intrusive questions that remind you of just how screwed you are…just isn’t helpful.
        I agree that “when are you due?” Or a comment about a baby item you’re looking at, or an ” I have one of my own, is this your first?” Or even just a knowing smile… Is a much better way to go .

    • Profile photo of Kylie Kylie says:

      I agree with Kayla, people are EXTREMELY nosey! It’s like they feel that they have a right to say something just because they’ve had kids. I was struggling with hormonal changes big time when I was pregnant, and it was very difficult, by my 8 month I could hardly sleep or do anything without hurting in some way so I was always dragging and exhausted. I was so fed up with people barraging me with information and questions, I eventually had to show people I didn’t want to hear it anymore. Some people, like those closest to me, care… but I always felt like everyone else could just butt out for all I care.

    • Profile photo of Kayla Kayla says:

      9x out of ten its not because people care its because they are nosey.

  19. Profile photo of Megan Megan says:

    I’m 21 weeks pregnant with my first and just started showing enough that other people could tell about at 19 weeks. I am pretty little to start with (5’4, 120ish) and didn’t gain any weight until my 20th week. I’ve had the opposite of most of the comments – “you don’t even look pregnant” and “you barely have a bump” or my favorite “I’m just waiting for you to say it was all a practical joke”. I understand the intent, but I’m not afraid to put on baby weight – I’m pregnant!

    • Profile photo of Kylie Kylie says:

      What most people don’t get is that you are supposed to put on baby weight, the doctor will tell you “You can put on however much weight.” But a lot of folks act as if you shouldn’t have gained any at all. The worst part is after you give birth, and you plan on breastfeeding. You should be eating for your little one, not worrying about losing weight. Breastfeeding can be very difficult (it was for me and my daughter), I try to be encouraging to other new mothers, you look beautiful no matter what… the most important thing (if you are breastfeeding) is to feed your baby, not worry about what you look like.

    • Profile photo of Melanie DenneyEditor Melanie Denney says:

      Congrats on your first baby, Megan!

  20. Profile photo of Samantha Samantha says:

    I am 37 weeks pregnant with twins and the question I cringed at the most was if we used fertility drugs. Seriously how is it any of your business if my husband and I are or are not fertility challenged. Either way it makes for an uncomfortable conversation.

  21. Profile photo of Robyn Robyn says:

    I am 31 weeks pregnant with our miracle baby at the age of 40. I am so sick of people asking me what I am having. Then if I tell them next question is what is the name. First off, not totally sure plus I think it is rude of them to ask. I have been told I look BIG. I have been told by every single woman I have met how horrible giving birth was oh and let’s not forget all the men who tell me how bad it was for their wives! I don’t need to know this nor do I care about your damn birth story when I am 9 weeks from my due date!!! I really wish people would just say congrats and shut up!

  22. Profile photo of cynthia cynthia says:

    I’m 16 weeks with my 4th child. Five people have now asked me if I having twins!! Even though I ‘ve told everyone that we’ve had three ultra sounds and there is only one baby in here!!!!!! I’m sorry even if I thought a woman was having more than one baby I wouldn’t ask them that. Some people I swear. SMH !

  23. I am 20 years old and 6 1/2 months and my husbands co-worker looked at me and said, “any day now right?” I said I hope not (I was only 5 1/2 months at the time) and told him how far along I was. Also I hate absolutely hate my number one pet peeve since being pregnant is, “Just wait it will get worse” and “Oh just wait you will get bigger” this does not make me feel better, it makes me feel insignificant and like I am overreacting. I don’t feel like my pregnancy is special, I feel like it’s like everyone’s else’s so might as well not get excited.

  24. Profile photo of Lynna Lynna says:

    I get asked all these questions on a daily basis. I am 26 and 6 months pregnant and am in school full time and work at a hospital full time. The one question I get a lot, is how old are you and are you married? Since I must look young and unmarried. But, I think the worst of all is the stories after stories I get of all the horrible things about being pregnant and about the delivery.

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