Skip to content

Pregnancy is hard enough without the barrage of judgemental comments, so here's your definitive guide to what NOT to say to a pregnant person

Pregnancy can be full of surprises: leg cramps, nose bleeds, and ligament pain, to name a few. But perhaps one of the most difficult to cope with is the barrage of unwanted comments and unsolicited “advice” that family, friends and indeed complete strangers feel obliged to offer up at every given moment.

Before you write me off as a hormonal pregnant person (I am, but what I’m about to say is still valid and, hopefully, a helpful learning experience), these comments can put a huge dent in confidence and have a pretty significant impact on someone’s ability to enjoy their pregnancy. They range from inappropriate and unnecessary judgements about physical appearance (hello body shaming), to traumatising labour stories (did you know you can get PTSD from giving birth? I do, because about five different people have relished in telling me so) to ominous warnings about life with children (say goodbye to your sex life, social life, sleep and your general sense of identity).

Let’s elaborate. First up, the body comments. I think we can all agree that comments on a person’s body shape and size are always a no-no. You would never greet someone by saying, “Wow, you got big”, would you? Nor would you poke them, rub them or ask them to “twirl” so you can see the extent of their weight fluctuation from every angle. So, why are pregnant people suddenly fair game? It’s as if people suddenly see physical and verbal boundaries as obsolete when someone is pregnant.

Yes, many find their bump beautiful and love showing it off, but many don’t. Many people struggle hugely with the changes in their shape and feel self-conscious throughout pregnancy. It doesn’t help that maternity clothing is difficult to navigate (dressing up a novel body shape while retaining some sense of personal style is challenging to put it lightly).

Throughout my pregnancy, I have had the following comments relating to my size, all repeatedly:

“Oh my god, you’re huge.”

“Are you sure you’re only so-many weeks?”

“I’d say you’re more so-many weeks.”

“You must be nearly done now?”

“My daughter/wife/sister/friend is way further along than you but nowhere near as big”

“I’ve always loved pregnant women, I don’t understand why people call you lot fat cows!”

“At least your feet aren’t swollen.”

“Let’s see you from the back. Go on, give us a twirl!”

And not forgetting the classic: “You sure you’re not having twins?”

Respectfully, unless you’re my midwife or doctor and we are in the middle of a private appointment, my body is none of your business. Comments like the above have worn me down and, on a few occasions, reduced me to tears, and I hear similar sentiments from other pregnant friends and colleagues. I recommend keeping loaded judgments to yourself and instead, try a simple and always pleasant, “You look really well!” If they don’t look well and you’re concerned, try, “How are you feeling?”

Next up, are the warnings under the guise of advice. The “Just you wait"s and the “You’ll see”s that are almost always accompanied by a sour smirk mixed with a pinch of pity. This is when parents tell you all the miserable things that they’ve experienced, presented as universal parenting realities. If they had a terrible birth with a 3rd-degree tear and a postpartum haemorrhage, you will too. If their baby didn’t sleep through the night until two years old, nor will yours. If their relationship with their partner fell apart under the strain of parenthood, yours will. Just you wait.

This isn’t to be confused with genuinely well-meaning and constructive advice. I have learnt most of what I know from existing parents, both in terms of practical advice, like how to manage morning sickness and various breastfeeding tips, to what to look out for in matters relating to postnatal mental health and what to do about it.

The former type of advice, however, is always unhelpful and not at all fair. It’s simply a matter of misery loves company, and these people are trying to offload some of their discontentment or unhappiness onto you. If you’re pregnant or considering having a baby, just remind yourself that all babies are different, and all parents are different. What’s tolerable to you can be insufferable to another.

And to those people spreading a toxic idea of birth and parenthood to someone who is about to experience it for themselves, please seek help to deal with your own trauma and stop trying to spread it around. We’ll all be better off for it.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

Share this article: