What makes people think they can comment on your body when you’re pregnant? Or ask personal health questions (that they wouldn’t usually ask) just because you’re pregnant?
How Do You Deal With Unsolicited Advice During Pregnancy?
“When it comes to social norms about not talking to strangers and intruding into their personal business, all bets are off with pregnant women,” Alexis Conason, PsyD, a New York City–based psychologist told TheBump.
“Because pregnancy is so visible, people can have strong reactions to it, which makes them feel they can ask or say anything.”
Well, just because you “feel” like you can ask something, doesn’t mean you should.
During my first pregnancy, I would smile, be polite, and answer the intrusive questions or deflect by making a joke, because I thought it was the kind thing to do. Even though this unwanted behavior made me feel awkward and uncomfortable, I felt that I should appease others and smooth things over—that didn’t last long.
I no longer excuse thoughtless comments and questions with pleasantries like, “they probably mean well” or “they’re just curious” or even “they just care.” Anything with ‘they’ + ‘just’ is an excuse. My favorite excuses: “they don’t know any better” and “other women like being asked.”
If you Google this problem, (unwanted advice/comments/questions while pregnant) most articles will advise you to “ignore it” or “make a lighthearted comment or joke” in response.
But that doesn’t help.
Excusing unwanted, inappropriate behavior and unsolicited advice during pregnancy doesn’t help.
Instead, let’s address the issue by telling people that what they’re asking/saying is not okay with us.
Whether it’s a question about your weight or choice of healthcare provider, baby’s due date or your birth plan, if it feels too personal, it is too personal. You don’t have to justify why you are or are not sharing information.
And, you don’t have to accept uncomfortable comments.
Let’s apply this type of intrusive behavior to a different health scenario: a colonoscopy. (Okay, I know it’s not a perfect comparison, but let’s face it: nothing compares to pregnancy and childbirth.)
Can you imagine asking someone in your life about the details of their colonoscopy?
Like casually commenting, “Hey Karen, isn’t it time for your colonoscopy? How’s the colonoscopy prep going? Wait, you haven’t had your colonoscopy yet? How was the colonoscopy? What was it like?” (*Shudder*)
You probably wouldn’t dream of asking for details of that procedure, right? Or someone’s Pap smear or their prostate exam? Hopefully not.
Growing and birthing a baby does not give others any right to be rude.
Yes, it’s obvious you’re carrying a child—does that make it okay for people to ask intrusive questions? Nope. Yes, clearly you will have to (or have already) given birth to your baby—does that mean people need to know the details of it? Nope.
During my second pregnancy I had the wisdom and general I-no-longer-care-what-you-think-of-me perspective that comes with experience. I knew people were going to be rude and insensitive. I also knew I was done taking unwanted behavior.
Here’s how I respond to unwanted comments, unsolicited advice, and questions during pregnancy:
- Personal, probing question? “I’m not sharing that information, it’s personal” or “that’s an uncomfortable question, please don’t ask that again.”
- Unhelpful, insensitive comment? “That comment wasn’t helpful” or “I don’t appreciate that comment.”
- Unsolicited advice? “No thanks, I’ll be doing things my way” or “That isn’t for me.” You can also cut the person off—yes, you don’t have to keep listening—and say, “This advice is not helpful, please stop.”
We don’t have to ignore the comments and questions or brush them off.
We can respond honestly to people when they are being rude and tell them exactly why what they’re saying is not okay. It’s okay to tell someone what they are doing or saying is not okay with you.
I believe most people don’t want to offend or upset others. So when they behave inappropriately, they need to be told so.
That way, they won’t do it again. Of course, I wish people innately knew better and didn’t ask questions that seem so obviously intrusive, but some people don’t realize it—even medical professionals.
I had to set a nurse straight when I went past my estimated due date and she said, “You’re still pregnant, really?”
And she works in an OB GYN office full-time! She should know better. But she seemed very surprised and immediately apologized when I told her that her comment wasn’t helpful.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend, mom, sister, cousin, mother-in-law, nurse or a stranger at the grocery store who makes the rude comment or asks the inappropriate question—your body, pregnant or not, is no one’s business.