5 Things NOT to Say to Pregnant Women and Why (and What to Say Instead)

This post is a little “off topic” for me, but it was inspired by THIS POST  I wrote awhile back on helping speech. Since I was pregnant for the better portion of 2016, I feel like I know what I’m talking about on this one. Having heard other pregnant women concur with the challenge of some of these comments, I thought I’d post them here as food for thought. Interested in shoring up your helpful commenting when it comes to pregnant women? Read on!

“You look huge!” 

Variations: “Wow, I hope you don’t have the baby right here!” “Are you sure there’s only one baby in there?” “You’re gigantic!” “You look like you’re about to pop!

 Why you should avoid saying this: Unsolicited comments about the size of one’s belly are never welcome, but for some reason, people feel like pregnancy is an exception to this rule. Few people would walk up to an overweight person and say “Wow, you’re ENORMOUS!” Yet to pregnant women, it happens all the time. Baffling.  By the end of pregnancy, many women feel bloated and awkward, huge and uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be told that she is huge or large. It’s impossible to know how to respond to this. “Thanks?” “I know?” “You’re right?” What’s the proper response to having been told that you are gigantic? When these comments start coming when a woman has 3 or more months left in pregnancy, it makes the end of pregnancy feel even longer. I know women who had extra large bellies throughout their pregnancy who ended up dreading the daily comments about their size from friends, acquaintances and even strangers.

What you might say instead:  “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“You look tiny!” 

Variations: “You hardly look pregnant at all.” “Are you sure there’s a baby in there?” “I can’t tell you’re even pregnant.”

Why you should avoid saying this: I have firsthand experience with this one. In a culture that values thinness and being small, I think many folks said this to me thinking it was some sort of compliment. What they didn’t know was that my baby was measuring small for her gestational age and was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction. Every day I was praying for growth and a bigger baby, and every comment that I was small or that nobody could see a baby in there reminded me of this. Toward the end of the pregnancy a stranger asked when I was due (I’m taking that one on next!) and when I told her she said “Wow, your baby must be really small!” I burst in to tears right there at the grocery store.

What you might say instead: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“When are you due?” 

Variations: When is your due date? When is the baby coming?

Why you should avoid saying this:  I completely understand why people say this as a conversation starter, and it may not be a problem for all pregnant women. It didn’t bother me when people would ask me when my children were due. On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of women say that this question can get tiring when it’s asked all the time, particularly by strangers. (In part because the answer is often followed up with unwelcome commentary, but more on that in a different post!) Babies seldom arrive when they are “due” and they day they arrive can be wildly different than expected. Also, depending on the mother’s medical situation, the “due date” might be  a source of stress or uncertainty, and asking what seems like an innocent question might bring up topics the expectant mother would rather not discuss.

What you might say instead: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“You look tired.” 

Variations: “You look like you don’t feel well.” “You look exhausted.”

Why you should avoid saying this: Personally, I think “you look tired” should be stricken from everyone’s vocabulary. It feels like a socially acceptable way to tell someone they’re looking terrible. I’ve been told I look tired when I was feeling great and happy and wide awake. After being told I looked tired, though, I felt a responsibility to say “Yeah, I am sort of tired” and then high-tailed it to the bathroom to put on more lip gloss or eye liner. The same applies for pregnant women. What is possibly intended as concern comes across as a critique or insult.

What you might say instead: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”

“You know how this happens, right?” 

Variations: “Pregnant again!” “You and your husband need a different hobby!” “Don’t you have a TV at home?”

Why you should avoid saying this: I was subjected to endless comments in this category when I became pregnant with my second child a few months after giving birth to my first. Aside from being really awkward (Um, please stop talking!) it felt rude and invasive and judgmental.

What you might say instead: “Congratulations” “What a blessing!”

Pregnancy is a wild time for women. Some love it, some feel “so-so” about it. Some can’t wait to be done. For most women, though, simply being told that we’re looking wonderful or hearing a concerned “How are you” is more than enough commentary. If a pregnant woman has more information she’d like you to know, she’ll probably tell you.

So, what do you think? What unwelcome comments have you experienced during pregnancy? What would you add?