If you don’t know someone who’s pregnant, it’s just a matter of time until you do. It’s normal to have questions and wonder about the baby or the pregnancy, but sometimes questions or comments can cross the line. Dr. Lisa Wilson with Novant Health Providence OB/GYN outlined some things you shouldn’t (and some things you should) say to a woman who is expecting.
Don’t comment on mom’s belly.
As innocent as it may seem, comments like “You must be having twins!” or “Wow, that baby must be due any day!” can make a woman feel like she is too big.
Do ask when a woman is due. But only if you are sure she is pregnant. Which leads to the next point.
Don’t ask if a woman is pregnant unless you are absolutely positive she’s pregnant.
“It can really hurt a woman’s feelings if you assume she is pregnant when she isn’t,” Wilson said. “I’ve even had patients who are still recovering from recently delivering a baby tell me that someone has assumed they are still pregnant. When in doubt, don’t ask.”
Don’t ask to touch a woman’s stomach – especially if you don’t know her.
“If you are far enough removed from the person where you would have to ask to touch her stomach, you probably shouldn’t be touching her stomach,” Wilson said. “It’s an invasion of personal space, but it’s also awkward for the woman to have to say ‘no.’”
Don’t assume a woman wants a certain gender or a specific number of children.
“I bet you hope you are having a girl,” or “Oh, you have two boys. I’m sure you’re trying for a girl!” may seem innocent enough, but a lot of women don’t feel like they need a certain gender for her family to be “complete.”
“Families come in all shapes and sizes and we shouldn’t make assumptions on what families want,” Wilson said.
Do ask what she thinks she’s having or if she is finding out the gender of her baby.
Don’t give advice to women about pregnancy.
“Someone once told me I can’t wear high heels when I’m pregnant or that I couldn’t get a pedicure,” Wilson said. “Unless you know something to be dangerous, don’t give advice on something you’re not an expert on.”
Wilson said a lot of the things doctors recommend have changed over time. For example, physicians today recommend pregnant women continue to exercise if they were exercising before pregnancy.
“I think most women are more cautious than they need to be during pregnancy,” Wilson said. “If a woman is doing something, chances are she has cleared it with her doctor.”
Do be sensitive to the fact that what one woman experienced during pregnancy may be drastically different from what others have experienced. Every woman has different needs and experiences during pregnancy.
Don’t assume a woman’s plans after she gives birth.
“You’re planning to breastfeed, right?” or “Are you planning to stay home with your baby?” could make a woman feel like a bad mom – before she’s even given birth.
“Comments like these lay the groundwork that some things are normal and everything else is weird,” Wilson said. “Some women can’t breastfeed and others still want to have a career. Never make an assumption on what a woman’s plans may be.”
If a woman is trying to get pregnant, don’t say “It will happen when it’s supposed to happen.”
Despite the nice sentiment, it doesn’t help in the midst of a fertility struggle.
“It’s easy to assume that if a woman is more patient or more relaxed it will happen, but some women (or their partners) have medical issues that are keeping them from getting pregnant,” Wilson said. “Don’t minimize the efforts they are taking because it can be really hurtful.”
“People view pregnancy as pretty amazing and are very interested in new life,” Wilson said. “It’s easy to forget that the mom isn’t just a vessel but a person with feelings who deserves the same respect as everybody else.”