How to Talk to a Pregnant Woman

Typically I try to write from either a general child-rearing perspective, or more specifically about Dad issues. Today I’ve got some advice for you about pregnant mothers.

There are certain things about pregnant women that are a bit more to the side of myth. I’ve yet to hear about a mother from any of those I am acquainted with who was seized by strange food cravings or particularly intense aversions. I don’t know anyone who has experienced extreme and erratic mood swings. What I can confirm is that pregnancy gets pretty uncomfortable near the end and that pregnant women are going to be pretty sensitive to how they look.

Just think about it, or think back to when it may have happened to you: none of your old clothes fit, and clothes that you have purchased to fit even your now larger self grow less capable of covering your growing belly each day. Your skin is stretching taut and, in the winter, the dryness of the air is only exacerbated and your belly will be itchy and red or, in the summer, you are running an internal factory and you are always overheating. You can only sit and lay down in certain positions and you will have a baby approaching about 20 inches long try to stretch itself out inside your tummy, jabbing your ribs with feet and shoving itself into your already cramped bladder. You likely are not sleeping very well and this makes you even more tired than carrying around your baby and new-found baby-weight (because you ARE supposed to gain 25-35 pounds for an average-size woman) would have otherwise made you. Bathing is tricky and takes longer than it used to. Very likely it’s not advisable to partake in comfort foods that you once were able to enjoy and former staples like caffeine are now verboten. Oh, and there’s the chance you have one of those pregnancies where you spend 9 straight months nauseated and vomiting from time to time.

These are just some of the myriad ways pregnancy will begin to affect a mother as it winds along down towards the final stages. Your mileage may vary, of course, but many of these things are pretty standard. Suffice it to say, you’d likely be a little touchy in general, and more aware of a few things in particular.

Here are some tips for everyone to employ when interacting with a pregnant mother:

Greet the Mother, Not the Belly

Do Mom the courtesy of at least pretending you’re happy to see her specifically and then maybe give the baby a follow-up “Hello” after the fact. After all, one of the pair cannot speak English and can’t hear anything you’re saying anyway. [Bonus fact: This one is Janelle’s biggest peeve.]

Get Permission before Violating the Personal Bubble

Don’t lay on hands without asking. It’s weird to get touched by people all the time, even friends. Touches to the arms or hands are pretty common social cues. Touches to the stomach border on the intimate because in a normal context why the hell are you touching someone’s stomach? Sometimes Mom isn’t going to be in the mood, or doesn’t feel well.

DO Commiserate 

If you’re going to gab about the pregnancy, it helps to say things like “Hanging tough, huh?” or “At least it’s not the summer, right? You’d be so hot.” or anything else that acknowledges that Mom may be having a rough go of it, but is making the best of things. If she disagrees, let her tell you how wonderful the pregnancy is and how great she’s feeling. And if she’s not feeling great, she can sigh and agree with you and feel good that someone is recognizing that this is hard. If you open up talking about how “Isn’t this all just angel kisses and rainbow massages?” you’ll make her feel like she’s ungrateful if she feels otherwise.

DO NOT Comment on Size

I can’t stress this one enough. Just don’t do it. She knows how large her belly looks. She sees it all the damn time. It makes walking, getting up, sitting down, laying down and standing up hard. She’s aware. Saying “You’re huge!” or “You sure you’re not having twins?” is just the worst. What’s the upside to a comment like that? At best you’re telling someone they look huge, which with anyone other than a pregnant woman would just be you teasing them. At worst you’ve just taken a slam at an issue that is already bothering someone during a particularly vulnerable time of their life. Plus, if you REALLY want to be able to comment on how large a Mom is basically 90% of the time if you open up with “You look great” she’s going to counter with “I feel like a house” and then you can work in phrasing something nice like “That’s just a healthy baby growing in there.”


Unless your comment on size is “Other than that belly, you look like you haven’t changed at all.”

BONUS SIDE ADVICE: Don’t Ask if Someone is Pregnant

All I’ll say is this: Do you have such a burning desire to find out that you’re willing to risk the offense if you’re wrong? Just don’t do it. Let them tell you.


In the end, just consider that while many-to-most women really like being pregnant and will come away with positive feelings about the whole experience, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find women that think pregnancy has them looking or feeling their best. Think about it like a temporary weight gain. Would you just casually and openly be talking about a friend’s sudden 25-pound gain, rubbing their tummy and telling them how giant they look? Not unless you are an asshole.

  1. #1 by Vic on February 1, 2013 - 12:01 PM

    Long ago, I exiled the words “So, how far along are you?” from my opening sortie with a lady. One of the top 5 decisions I’ve made so far.

(will not be published)