5 Reasons Why You Should Never Ask a Woman If She's Pregnant
Fact-checked by HeHe Stewart, Doula and birthing expert. HeHe is the founder of a Maternity Concierge, Doula and Birthing Service in the Boston area.
Somehow, society has made it a norm to comment on, give advice for, and even touch a pregnant person’s body. In 2019, humans are more complex than ever before and that means that our science and reproductive technology has followed suit making no shortage in pregnant humans. Women now have the choice to be a SMC (Single Mother by Choice) and it’s becoming more and more acceptable to form your family in alternative ways. Everywhere you turn, you’re bound to notice an expecting mother.
No matter what society has evolved to accept as “the norm,” there are a few things to consider before you share your thoughts or physically touch another person’s body—especially that of a pregnant person. This is a great reminder that if you wouldn’t want it said to you or about you, then it’s a safe bet that you shouldn’t say it. Yet, still we have this idea that caressing a pregnant belly without consent is a form of endearment.
Before we dissect exactly what’s wrong with this picture, let’s first think if you’d appreciate a stranger coming up to you after Sunday brunch and saying how high your baby is “riding.” It would sting. It might be embarrassing or even make you feel a bit angry. A few foul words may even slip out.
While that’s a good place to start, what you don’t have (that a pregnant person does) is the pressure from their doctor to gain enough (but not too much), the pressure from their boss to return to work before maternity leave is up, the added task of choosing childcare (not to mention the cost of childcare), plus registering (and attending!) for childbirth education classes, infant CPR, and breastfeeding prep. Oh yeah, they need to hire a doula so we’ll add that to the list too. Throw in the raging hormones, unpredictable crying, achy back, uncontrollable heartburn, and broken sleep....are you starting to get a better picture of why you shouldn’t ask a woman if she is pregnant?
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Here’s a list to help you think about this question from the other party’s perspective:
5. It’s embarrassing/uncomfortable.
Considering there’s a 50/50 chance that you are wrong and this person is not pregnant, it will be a painful interaction for you both. This person will feel embarrassed and maybe even hurt considering your comment was directly related to their body, their appearance and their weight. It should go without saying that you never have the right to comment on someone else’s body, but if you make the mistake of doing so, be sure to apologize and take total responsibility. Do not try to justify why you asked or what you thought beforehand.
4. It might be their body shape.
Maybe this person has struggled with body image since they were nine years old. Maybe this person is recovering from an eating disorder and has just recently found the confidence to eat in public. It’s possible that this person loves their body and your comment won’t make a difference, but why test the waters, ya know? If you’re going to put your focus on someone’s body, make it your own.
3. You must consider that not everyone wants children.
Assuming that a person should or would (or even could) conceive children based on their gender is extremely intrusive and presumptuous. There are millions of humans that do not want to have children. They just don’t see it as part of their written story and that’s okay. This doesn’t take away from your experience in the least way. Everyone, I repeat, everyone is able to make this choice
2. They might have experienced loss.
Miscarriage impacts 25% of women; meaning for every four women you come in contact with, one of them (statistically speaking) has had a miscarriage. This person might have been trying to conceive for years and your words will sting like salt in a fresh paper cut. Maybe this person has just completed, and learned that it was not successful, their last round of IVF that they could afford.
1. It’s none of your business what another human does with their body. Period.
Let’s revisit the idea that it is 2019. Women are steadily gaining strength and equality. We are no longer accepting the notion that we must be small and silent. We are taking control of our reproductive rights and making choices for our bodies for ourselves. What another human does with their body is no business of yours.
Here are a few great go-to phrases for when you’re interacting with an expectant parent:
- “You’re glowing!”
- “You’re going to be such a great parent”
- “Your baby is already so loved.”
- “What are you most excited about?”
- “You sound like you are very well prepared.”
- “I can’t wait to meet your baby!”
- “Good luck with your birth! You’re going to do great!”
- “What’s your favorite thing about preparing for baby?”
It can seem cliche to “think before you speak,” but truly consider if what you’re going to say to the pregnant person in front of you is going to lift them up or make them feel self-conscious. If there’s even one sliver of doubt that it may not lift them up like a hot air balloon, then don’t say it.
Know someone who is pregnant? Here are the Top 5 Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman.