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5 things you should never say to a pregnant woman

She's already cranky, puffed, and exhausted. Please don't make it worse with these common questions for pregnant women

These lists are sometimes hard to compile because of the beautiful complexity and differences between women. What may be offensive to one may be exactly what another needs to hear. Women, particularly pregnant women, are multidimensional, deeply thinking, individualistic human beings, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” list that applies to everyone.

However, there does seem to be an invisible boundary of privacy that drops when a woman is expecting a child. In a time when she is very likely uncertain, nervous, and potentially bombarded with any number of questions, swimming in a pool of nerves, people think this is the time to invade her space.

Most of these are well-intentioned questions, habitual, even. Rightfully so, people are excited and happy at the sight of a pregnant woman, and sometimes in that joy, manners can slip. It’s important to keep in mind that many women — particularly the more introverted ones — are uncomfortable with all the new attention they’re probably receiving. For the women who don’t relish having these conversations with their family members, friends, hairstylists, and strangers in the produce section, these questions can be very awkward. Keep reading to find out the things you should never say to a pregnant woman.

New mom breastfeeding a baby
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‘Are you going to breastfeed?’

This one is usually said with an air of haughtiness that also says, “It is the best choice, you know. Any mother who doesn’t breastfeed is just the absolute worst and shouldn’t be allowed to have children if only because of her shocking selfishness.”

Ladies (and gentlemen), think about this one for a moment. While, as mentioned above, your intentions are undoubtedly lovely and kind, you may very well be deeply offending the already uncomfortable pregnant woman you’re talking to. Take into consideration that there are many reasons her answer to this question may be (gasp) “No.”

Perhaps she has a medical issue that prevents her from breastfeeding. Perhaps she has a deeply rooted psychological reason she’s chosen not to. Perhaps she just feels icky about the whole thing, and despite her best efforts, just can’t move past it. Whatever the reason, she already knows breastfeeding is the healthiest and “best” option without you telling her so.

She doesn’t need to know that it’s what you did and that your babies were just healthy little horses. She doesn’t need to hear that feeding her precious, unborn baby formula is the equivalent of feeding it Tang instead of freshly squeezed orange juice. She’s thought about her choice more than you have; whatever that choice is, it’s really none of your business.

Name tag on pregnant belly
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‘Do you have a name picked out?’

Women hear this one at least three times a day after announcing a pregnancy. When the answer is “not yet,” they’re immediately bombarded by a list of suggestions to politely pretend to actually consider, all while thinking, “Do you really think this is how I’m going to find a name for my child? A suggestion from a stranger I met while waiting for my burrito at Chipotle?”

When the answer becomes “yes,” she still doesn’t want to tell you. Not because she doesn’t love the name, but because she really just doesn’t want your opinion. She doesn’t want to see you grimace when you say something like, “Oh, don’t do that! I knew a (fill-in-the-name) who was a real jerk!” She also doesn’t want to stand there while you try to come up with all the funny things it rhymes with because “kids can be so cruel sometimes.”

This is the reason many women get uncomfortable when asked this question. They don’t want to tell you the name until that precious little baby has arrived and you really have no choice but to smile politely when you’re introduced. So stop asking, because it makes a woman feel uncomfortable and smug when she has to say, “Yeah, we have one picked out, but you can’t know what it is.”

A doctor holding a syringe
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‘Are you going to have an epidural?’

This gem, much like the breastfeeding question, comes fully loaded with all sorts of judgment ready to spew if they say “yes.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with naturalistic, dress-made-from-hemp, vegan-diet-only, makes-her-own-kale-soap, painkillers-are-evil women. These women are lovely and their opinions noble. But in another camp are people who are firm believers in modern medicine, and that’s beautiful, too.

Furthermore, not everyone has that “must conquer labor or I’ve failed as a woman” mentality. To be sure, many women feel this way, and hey, more power to them! But as for the rest of us — one big shot of the juice, please. And hold the side of guilt.

Pregnant woman eating
George Rudy/Shutterstock

‘You really shouldn’t be eating/drinking/doing that.’

The boldness of people is really quite shocking at times. One woman’s example happened on a very hot day as she was exiting Starbucks with her decaf mocha Frappuccino. Having just poked the straw through the velvety whipped cream into the icy treat, she smiled at the little pleasure she had allowed herself. But just as the straw hit her lips, she received a frantic tapping on the shoulder. When she turned, a persnickety little woman was shaking her finger, chirping, “No caffeine allowed!” Alright, lady. First of all, yes, it is, in small doses. Secondly, it was decaf. Thirdly, mind your own business and bugger off.

This was the most brazen example we heard, but others included nasty looks from strangers when ordering an In-N-Out cheeseburger animal style, or going for a third slice of pizza. Come on people, give the pregnant women a break. They can only eat so much broccoli and quinoa.

Pregnant woman holding her stomach
Image used with permission by copyright holder

‘Can I touch your belly?’

No. And don’t just do it, either. It’s weird. Stop it.

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Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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