What not to say (or do) to a pregnant woman

Pregnant woman sitting on bench

Cropped image. Nicu Buculei, Flickr. CC license.

As I enter week 34 of my second pregnancy, I am still surprised at the remarks that strangers say to me about my looks. Does somehow growing a child and carrying it around for 9 months gives people the right to comment on (or touch) my body? While I was joking with co-workers about the odd comments and stories we each experience, I decided to put a basic list together of things you should not say (or do) to a pregnant woman.

  • Do not tell her how huge/big/pregnant she is.

After age 5, hearing how big you are stops being a compliment. Don’t you think I know how big I am?! I’m the one who gets out of breath putting on socks.

  • Do not touch her belly without asking first.

Oh, hi complete stranger! I have no idea where your hands have been and if you are sick or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love when people touch my belly (you get bonus points if you lightly scratch my belly) but simply ask first. If you ask once and I give you permission, you can feel free to touch my waistline in the future.

  • Do not say, “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”

It’s 2016 and I am surprised that I am writing this. No joke, this happened to me twice during this pregnancy. The first time was while shopping with a friend and the cashier asked me this. Mind you I was only six months pregnant at the time; talk about a blow to my self-esteem. Even if it is twins, do not ask if it is twins. Instead say, “How exciting to welcome a baby!” and if a mother is carrying two bundles of joy, she may offer this information.

  • Do not say, “Should you be eating that?”

Most health care providers give a list to new moms on what foods to avoid or tips on where they can find this information. A pregnant woman’s diet is limited while her cravings are limitless. I am not a big meat eater and surprised myself when I found myself craving a Reuben sandwich (who am I?). Unless I accidentally grabbed a container of explosive material instead of my delicious corned beef, please let me eat what my body is craving.

Also under this category is to not mention how gross our cravings can be. Ice cream and pickles together? Pretzels and BBQ sauce? Hot wings and sour cream? Chances are good that I know how weird these combos sound. It’s baby craving that food combinations, not me!

  • Do not say, “I hear you’re having another boy/girl. That’s too bad. Guess you’ll just have to try again to get that little girl/boy!”

I love my 3-and-a-half-year-old boy and am so excited to be having another boy. Does that mean I will be the only female in the house and outnumbered by cars, trucks, forts, dirty hands, pee-covered toilets, NERF guns and swords? Yes. But does that mean I would trade any of that for princesses and bows? No. My family is perfect just the way it is. My standard response is, “I am going to focus on this pregnancy and loving this baby for now.”

  • Do not say “You look really tired.”

You shouldn’t say this to anyone unless you are offering them a cup of coffee, massage, and free babysitting.

Here’s what you should say to every single pregnant woman you see: “You look wonderful.”

Regardless of whether she is six or 36 weeks along, every pregnant woman has a whirlwind of emotions going through her body including being self-conscious. I mean, honestly, is there ever a more vulnerable time for a woman than when your waist is expanding, you can’t see your toes, and you wet your pants if you sneeze too hard? Be sensitive. Be kind. And offer her a snack or a nap (better yet, even both).

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of one with another on the way.

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