Some people see a pregnant belly and suddenly act like they have carte blanche to share whatever pops into their head to the mom-to-be. Don’t be one of them.
In some cases, the comments are clearly rude or inappropriate. Other times, the remark may seem harmless or even complimentary, at least on the surface. Either way, your words can be frustrating or hurtful for pregnant people to receive.
We asked moms which comments they wish people would stop saying to pregnant people and why. Their responses are a good reminder to pause before offering unsolicited opinions or advice.
1. “You look like you’re about to pop!”
Or you might be guilty of other variations like: “Wow, you’re huge!”; “You must be due any day now!” or “Are you sure you aren’t having twins?” While you may think you’re just making idle chit-chat in the grocery store check-out line, these kinds of remarks can be irritating — or even harmful — depending on whom you’re talking to.
The many bodily changes of pregnancy can be difficult to contend with, especially for those who have struggled with body image issues or an eating disorder. So telling a pregnant person how “big” they look, whether directly or indirectly, is unwelcome.
Similarly, asking someone if they’re having twins is a no-no.
“The implication of this comment is: You look bigger than you should for only having one baby,” Dr. Christine Sterling, an OB-GYN and founder of Sterling Parents, told HuffPost. “Commenting on other people’s bodies is not only rude, it can feed into disordered eating and body shame.”
And consider, too, the people who may have started the pregnancy with twins but lost one of them along the way.
“In IVF pregnancies, some studies have found the risk of ‘vanishing twin’ — when one twin is lost — to be as high as 36%.” Sterling said. “Imagine how hurtful it is to hear, ‘Are you sure there aren’t two in there?’ when you’ve lost a twin.”
Being a pregnant person with a social media presence can make you a target for cruel remarks — especially when you’re in a larger body.
“I’ve been told more rude things than I can count,” body acceptance advocate Suz Gillies-Smith told HuffPost. “‘Men will really stick it in anything.’ ‘Your baby is going to wish they were aborted.’ ‘Lay off the carbs and go to the gym.’ ‘Pregnancy isn’t an excuse to gain weight.’ ‘You’re going to get diabetes and kill your baby.’ ‘How’d he find it?’”
“Just like commenting on someone’s body or life when they’re not pregnant, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything,” she said.
2. “You don’t even look pregnant!”
Living in a largely fat-phobic society, people often think they’re giving a compliment when they talk about how “small” a pregnant person looks. But these comments can create anxiety for moms-to-be about the size and health of their baby.
“In my first pregnancy, I received so many comments about my ‘tiny belly’ — including someone telling me that I didn’t even ‘look pregnant’ at my own baby shower — that I began to feel anxious about my baby’s growth,” Kelsey Haywood Lucas — founder of Motherspeak and co-founder of the motherhood newsletter Two Truths — told HuffPost.
“While my OB assured me that everything was fine, I eventually requested a completely unnecessary ultrasound just to get some peace of mind. In my second pregnancy, I received the same type of comments once again; but I knew to ignore them and trust my doctor — and myself — instead,” she said.
“When you’re already feeling self-conscious or anxious, the last thing you want is someone drawing more attention to the source of that discomfort.”
Sterling seconded this, saying, “I cannot tell you how many times mamas have cried to me” after hearing this kind of comment from someone in their life. “It can be especially hurtful if they’ve been dealing with nausea and vomiting or hyperemesis and struggling to keep weight on,” she said. “It’s also very anxiety provoking for when someone’s baby has intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and we are monitoring their growth very closely.”
Cassie Shortsleeve, a journalist and founder of Dear Sunday Motherhood, said she’s found it’s better not to make any comments about someone’s physical appearance right off the bat. Instead, ask them how they’re doing, then follow their lead from there.
“Maybe they feel great and would love a compliment. Maybe pregnancy has caused body image issues to bubble up,” said Shortsleeve, who also co-founded Two Truths with Haywood Lucas. “Maybe everyone is telling them they ‘look great,’ and they don’t feel great. Maybe they want to talk about anything but the way they look. Maybe they want to talk about it. Going back to that ‘How are you feeling?’ question is always a good start.”
The bottom line: “Do not comment on their size,” said Dr. Johana D. Oviedo — an OB-GYN and a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine. “Big or small, doesn’t matter! Don’t do it. You do not know what that individual is going through.”
3. “Should you really be eating or drinking that?”
Just as you need not share your thoughts on a pregnant person’s body shape or size, please also keep comments about their food or beverage choices to yourself — whether it’s the caffeinated vanilla latte they’re sipping or the salmon avocado roll they’re eating.
“If there’s a food you think a pregnant person should not be eating, you are probably wrong,” Oviedo said. “For example, coffee. Your comments are unwelcome.”
Other times, people may feel the need to pass judgment on what a pregnant person is eating because they don’t think the food in question is healthy enough. But what’s on someone else’s plate is none of your concern, pregnant or not. Simple as that.
4. “You sure have your hands full!”
Pregnant women often hear this when they’re running errands with their other kids in tow or any time it’s apparent just how much they’re juggling. As artist Catie Atkinson pointed out, chances are this mother already “feels the immense weight of the role she’s carrying” without your commentary.
And while this remark is often rooted in kindness, it “rarely feels good,” said Atkinson — the woman behind @spiritysol on Instagram and founder of Your Digital Doula. It implies that the mom isn’t it balancing it all as effortlessly as she should be.
“Our society leaves very little room for the loud, messy, awkward reality of moving through public with small children and a pregnant body that may feel uncomfortable, tired, or downright painful,” she said.
“When you’re already feeling self-conscious or anxious, the last thing you want is someone drawing more attention to the source of that discomfort. Comments like ‘You sure have your hands full!’ can also feel like salt in a wound because most of us would love a helping hand and deeper support.”
A better option? When you see a mom with a lot on her plate, stop and ask what you can do to lighten her load, Atkinson suggested.
5. “Are you so excited?!”
This is another comment that is often intended to be supportive but can inadvertently have the opposite effect. Any remark that assumes a mom-to-be should feel a particular way about her pregnancy fails to acknowledge the full spectrum of emotions she may be experiencing.
“Too often, I find we approach pregnancy from a place of all joy, ” Shortsleeve said. “While pregnancy often is a joy, joy is not always the reigning emotion. Many pregnant people experience joy and happiness as well as things like discomfort, overwhelm, or sadness ― sometimes all at the same time.”
“People who have experienced loss or have had challenging fertility journeys can also experience a lot of fear and anxiety during pregnancy.”
When you ask a leading question like this, it doesn’t allow space for the truth of the person’s experience. And that makes it harder to genuinely connect, Shortsleeve said.
“Worse, we condition them to think, ‘If I’m not super excited all the time, is there something wrong with me?’ There’s not,” she said. “It’s important that we make space for someone to share the full breadth of their emotional experience. You could always start with something like, ‘Congratulations! Pregnancy is a huge change. How are you feeling?’”
6. “Get ready to never sleep again!”
It’s normal for people with a baby on the way to have some fear about how their life will change — and that includes their ability to rest, Atkinson said.
“Focusing on this challenging aspect of new parenthood is rude, unhelpful, and usually just makes pregnant people feel more anxious.”
If a pregnant woman tells someone she’s exhausted or not sleeping well, it’s sometimes met with a flippant, “Oh, just wait till the baby comes!” This kind of phrasing is “incredibly minimizing,” Sterling said.
“Pregnancy insomnia is a very real and often debilitating symptom, but whenever pregnancy people complain about sleep, someone has to pull out, ‘Just wait until baby gets here, it gets so much worse!’” she said. “Can you imagine feeling absolutely exhausted and instead of kindness or understanding, everyone just tells you how it’s going to get worse?”
7. “You better enjoy it now, because it’s all over once the baby arrives!”
And these kinds of buzzkill comments aren’t just limited to sleep. Anytime a pregnant person is having fun, relaxing or otherwise enjoying life, it seems like someone wants to come rain on their parade.
Think: “Going out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Sitting by the pool reading a book. Travel of any kind,” Haywood Lucas said.
“For some reason, people love to interrupt pregnant people who are out in public enjoying themselves just to tell them that their future baby will strip that particular pleasure from their life. The truth is that if you want to make something a priority in your life, you can and will find a way to enjoy it — even with kids in tow.”