PSA – What NOT to say to pregnant women

I was talking with a friend who is currently eight months pregnant about the strangely insensitive things that people say to gestating women. Then I read this post and thought that today’s post would be a public service announcement: things not to say to pregnant women.

When I was pregnant with Mark, I was working on a natural gas trade floor, and the majority of my coworkers were male. It was the kind of workplace in which your colleagues would, on a daily basis, scream “What the f**k is the number? This f**king thing isn’t updating. Nicole! Your f**king model isn’t working! Can you just f**king fix it? F**K!” One colleague, in a fit of rage, smashed his phone receiver against his desk until it broke. It was that kind of environment.

In other words, if you wanted to work there with minimal emotional damage, you had better toughen up, buttercup, and do your crying in the ladies’ room.

But after I announced my pregnancy many of my coworkers reacted with extreme sensitivity and thoughtfulness. One colleague who became a father a few months before I was due – and his lovely wife has since become a friend of mine – was particularly solicitous, giving information and moral support, and bringing me snacks. Many snacks.

Those snacks undoubtedly contributed to my double-the-recommended weight gain, and that weight gain prompted another, younger, and single coworker to joke, “What happened to Nicole? Did you eat her?”

And so, dear reader, that brings me to the number one thing not to say to a pregnant woman. Never, never suggest that her weight gain is such that you suspect her of consuming an adult human. I laughed humourlessly at his joke, and then immediately considered whether poisoning or strangulation would be the better route to take.

Of course, I did look like this:

And I still had a full seven weeks to go before my due date, when that photo was taken. Can you tell I developed pre-eclampsia?

Upon consultation with other women, I have garnered a number of gems to avoid:

1) “Wow! You’re HUGE.” No woman wants to hear that, especially one whose hormones are running rampant.
2) “The pregnancy really has helped your complexion!” Actually, forget pregnant women. Don’t say that to anyone.
3) “Do you have twins in there?” And as an addendum, after a woman has assured you that no, there is only one fetus in the womb, do not follow up with “Are you SURE? You know, those ultrasounds can be mistaken.”
4) Do not assume you know the due date. Wait for the woman to tell you when she is due. Don’t say things like “It must be any day now!” This happened to me. When I was pregnant with Jake, a perfect stranger said, “I bet you’ll be happy to have that baby before the summer begins, with the heat and all.” It was early June. Jake was due at the end of September. AND, I was a mere shadow of the woman I was when I was pregnant with Mark; here I am with three months of growth to go.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to comment on what NOT to say to pregnant women, or to anyone for that matter.


  1. “Just wait.” About how uncomfortable you already are; about how you’re not getting any sleep; about how excited you are about the baby (because ALL of those things are going to get worse – nice, right?). My friends and I call them the Just Wait-ers and they were the bane of my existence as a pregnant woman.

  2. My loving sister-in-law touched my face pre-empting what I thought was a sensitive women to women moment and said

    ” Wow – you’ve even gained weight in your face!.”

    We could follow that up with what not to say to a new mom. ( Same sister – in-law)

    “we’re really impressed – you have turned out to be a much better mother than we expected.”


  3. “Your life as you know it is about to end.”
    “It looks like you are smuggling a beach ball”
    “It’s about time”
    “Do you think you should be eating/ doing/ that?”
    (Unless she is chuffing a coors and smoking a cigar, leave pregnant lady alone”
    “You look so much better now that you are pregnant.”
    “I know of a cream for those veins”

    Yes, every single one of those things was said to me, generally by random strangers or an in-law.

  4. How about don’t tell stories about women who lost their babies? in my last pregnancy (which was high risk and these people knew it) I had four different people tell me similar stories of baby loss. So stupid.

    Also, I had a doctor exclaim “Wow! Look at all those stretch marks! The baby is really doing a number on you.” Gee thanks.

  5. Oh I love this.

    I thought I had nothing to add until I read Marilyn’s comment and remembered how EXTREMELY MANY people told me, when I was expecting twins, stories about twins dying. A lot of them were like, “Oh! I was a twin! But my twin was stillborn.” Or, “My daughter would have been twins, but I miscarried one when I was 6 months along.” Me: !!!

  6. HAHAHA!! YES.

    Also, do NOT touch the belly of a pregnant woman, especially a stranger you meet in the grocery store.

  7. Oooh, that reminded me:
    I had a friend tell me when I was 7 months pregnant about a friend who just had a baby with complete brain damage who would be basically a vegetable, and the kicker was that they thought she was having a perfect pregnancy all along and there was no way they would have seen this brain damage on an ultrasound. Or something. I stared at him for a good 4 minutes until he asked “What?” all innocent-like. I could only reply, “Did you really just tell me that?”


  8. I think you look gorgeous in all of those pictures! You should have seen ME when I was pregnant. HOLY SMOKES.

    And yes. People say immensely stupid things to pregnant women. Like my mother-in-law’s endless Dead Babies stories, or the Mythical Lady Who Lost Her Uterus Mid-C-Section. What is WRONG with people?

  9. I agree – I think you look beautiful in your pictures.

    I was probably the biggest pregnant woman alive and knew it – but didn’t want to hear it.

    I also hear many of the comments here. But – this was my worst conversation, ever:

    Hairdresser – Tanis, come on, admit it, you are fat, not just pregnant fat, fat.
    Tanis – Come on now, I am pregnant, you are supposed to tell me I am beautiful. I’ll give you 1 chance to take it back.
    Hairdresser – Ha Ha Ha! Whatever Tanis, between you and me, you are fat!
    Tanis – I don’t know how long I can do this, I am NOT fat, I am pregnant & beautiful.
    Hairdresser – Ha Ha Ha! You are irrational & fat!
    Tanis – That’s it, I have given you too many chances. We are through.

    Needless to say I broke up with my hairdresser and slandered his name throughout town (let me know if I should continue!).

  10. Oh yes, I forgot about the belly rubbers, and the people who bring misery to pregnant women in the form of horrible tragic stories, and also stories of how your life is really going to change. Really? My life is going to change?

    Tanis, you would have been justified in murdering your hairdresser, or at least torturing him with his own styling implements.

  11. wow…that brings back memories…with my second, I got the “you must be due ANY DAY NOW” comments all of the time…starting when I had 8 weeks to go…(I, too, gained double the recommended weight). Then there were the comments from doctors about how I should not be eating fast food…and I was NOT EATING FAST FOOD (these were usually from fat, male OB’s who clearly had a FF problem themselves).

    But the comment I hated most of all, and still hate, is when people instruct me to “ENJOY IT.” Because, it goes too fast, or it’s only going downhill from here, or someone will die before you know it, or whatever…I just think of ENJOY IT! as a command that is often followed by someone’s own trauma history…

    I have yet to think of an effective come-back for that one. Any ideas?

  12. I have no warnings to share, but I am totally taking notes as to what NOT to say.

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