A few etiquette tips for interacting with a mama-to-be

I’ve always been a proponent of exercising good manners and etiquette. A lot of people may think that the idea of etiquette is an old-fashioned concept, but even in modern times a little politeness still goes a long way. Etiquette is a way to show respect and reverence, which is relevant in almost every type of situation from hitting the gym or spa to gracefully canceling plans or going on a job interview. And when it comes to navigating major life milestones like weddings, it can be especially helpful to know what rules of etiquette apply.

But for today’s Ladylike Laws post, I am going to touch on a topic that has been on my mind lately for obvious reasons: what to say to a woman who is pregnant. Most people only mean well when they are commenting on a pregnancy, but it’s one of those situations where it’s hard to know what to do or say. I may only be in my second trimester, but I’ve already noticed quite a few etiquette missteps when it comes to how people behave around someone who is expecting. I was chatting about it the other day with one of my LC.com editors who is also pregnant, and we each had quite a long list of inappropriate comments that we’ve heard! A lot of these are things I didn’t even think about before entering into pregnancy myself, so I hope they shed some light on this sensitive topic for others who may not be in the know. Whether you’re a close friend of the mama-to-be or a complete stranger, most of these rules still apply. Here are a few tips to keep in mind…

Rule No. 1: Do not ask a married couple when they are going to have kids.

Yes, a lot of married couples do start trying to get pregnant relatively soon after they tie the knot. But that is definitely not always the case—and it’s never a fair assumption to make. Keep in mind that the decision to have children (both if and when), is an extremely personal one. And any questioning, pressure, or even hinting about it usually just makes the couple uncomfortable (and yes, this includes making comments on the Instagram of someone who is in the public eye!). You also never know if someone may be privately struggling with fertility or has suffered through a recent miscarriage. In those cases, asking someone when they are going to have kids can be a major trigger question. If a friend, family member, or public figure opens up to you about this decision first, then you get to comment about it. But please wait for them to volunteer the information first!

Rule No. 2: Never ask when someone is due unless you are 100 percent certain they are expecting.

I’ve heard from my several of my friends that this is a question they have been asked in the first few months postpartum when they haven’t quite lost the baby weight and still have a little “bump.” There are also some people who just carry their weight in their belly even if they have never had a baby. There’s no bigger blow to someone’s self-confidence and body image than asking them if they are pregnant when they are not. So unless they already mentioned that they are expecting, it’s much better to hold your tongue.

Rule No. 3: Refrain from commenting on the size of someone’s bump.

I myself have been guilty of this one. While seeing a friend’s bump grow can be really exciting, you probably don’t comment on the size or shape of any other part of a woman’s body—and it’s not a good idea to comment on her bump either! Women carry their pregnancy in all different ways, and can be self-conscious about it. Whether a woman is bigger than average or she’s not showing as much as she thought she would be, keep in mind that it can be a very sensitive subject.

Rule No. 4: Don’t touch the belly without asking!

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but every mama I know has some story about a stranger touching her pregnant belly. When my best friend Hannah was pregnant two years ago, I was witness to this phenomenon more than once. It happens way more often than you would think! Even if you are a close friend or family member, it doesn’t hurt to ask first before making a grab for the belly. No matter what your relationship to the mama-to-be is, keep in mind that it’s much more pleasant to have someone politely ask if it is OK before groping your midsection.

Do you have any other pregnancy etiquette tips you would add?

And what other pregnancy related topics would you like me and my team to cover?

Share any ideas in the comments below.

XO Lauren

Photos: Valorie Darling Photography
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  • Laura

    Great comments… I also have another no no: Do not ask the couple if it was planned! I’m not sure what the asker is expecting to hear as an answer in this case… “Yes, we were doing the deed every day”, or “nope, it was an accident”… either way it is an uncomfortable question

  • Love these pointers 🙂

    Rachael xx.
    theteacozykitchen.blogspot.co.uk

  • Leah Kauffman

    Great rules!

  • I think these are all really good. You should definitely never ask a married couple about when they are going to have kids as you don’t know whether they might be trying and struggling and the question can be upsetting.

    • Kasper

      And not everybody wants kids.

  • Elisabeth

    Maybe amend #1: “Do not ask any couple when they’re having kids, married or not.” It’s an invasive questions, married or not.

    • LuxLuxLux

      AMEN.

    • Natalie

      Completely agree! I was after before I was married, on my actual wedding day, and even more so afterwards. Little did anyone know (and still don’t) we were going through a miscarriage after our wedding and it made it even more of a sting when people asked or ‘hinted’.

  • Nadia

    I don’t have children. But if I ever would get babies – the last thing I would want to hear was: how painful the birth of their baby was… How horrible or painful something went…! I would NOT want to hear anything on that 🙂

  • Tracy S

    Never tell a pregnant woman that she should stay pregnant even a day longer or shorter than her due date so the baby can share a birthday with you. Wishing a pregnancy to be shorter puts the baby at risk, and wishing a longer pregnancy is just mean – the last weeks are almost unbearable with how uncomfortable you get.

    • PrinceHarming

      Wow – Apparently, even the sincerest attempt at good will is deemed as toxic by someone who is determined to be offended.

      • Elsa Lilja Cotto

        Absolutely not. I completely agree with Tracy! I understand making lighthearted comments about “Christmas babies” or something, but you have no idea how sensitive and emotional moms-to-be are, or how those comments will make them feel. They have about as much choice in “picking” their child’s birth date as they do in what color eyes they will have, so really it’s not about being “determined to be offended,” so much as not appreciating comments that aren’t helpful or kind.

        • Nisey

          Agreed with Tracy and Elsa. Also, you should never tell a pregnant woman that you hope the baby isn’t born on your birthday because you don’t want to share a birthday with the baby.

        • PrinceHarming

          Then just go ahead and live your life enraged. Entirely up to you.
          Words are only offensive to the extent that you empower them to be so .. enjoy!

          • Elsa Lilja Cotto

            I don’t really see how finding something insensitive or inappropriate and living life “enraged” are the same, but ok! 🙂

  • Katherine

    #1 x10000000. My husband and I were married 1.5 years ago and we get this all of the time. In our situation we have had 2 consecutive miscarriages. It has been an extremely difficult time for us.

  • Gina

    Never, ever, ever comment on the waddle!!! I’m shocked at how many people do this — both men and women. It’s not a proud momma moment when a pregnant lady starts to waddle, it’s usually a sign of uncomfort and/or pain and it’s definitely not cute. I hate when people mention it. It makes me so self conscious.

  • Sarah

    #3 drives me nuts! I’m tall so yes, I don’t look as pregnant as shorter people do….duh! No, the baby is not small for its size! I also don’t want to hear your horror stories of how terrible birth will be as it’s my first time. Not helpful!

    • Marlaina Rose

      Whoever told you any horror story about giving birth is not your friend! Labor and delivery is NOT terrible!!!! You’ll be just fine!

  • Jeanne

    Don’t tell them how tough the teen years are….let them enjoy the fun of little ones who listen to them and think mom & dad know everything! 🙂

  • yaritza zayas

    Never comment on maternal age. I am 33 years old pregnant with my first child and I have had people comment that I almost missed my opportunity or recently I was commented that I should only have one child since I’m already in my mid thirties and all of the complications that can result from geriatric pregnancy. It’s just rude!

    • Kasper

      You are in your early thirties love. I am 37 and still say I am mid thirties haha! I am not sure where you are from, but I am from Ireland where the average age to start a family is in fact early thirties. So you are not old at all!

    • Lynne B

      Had my first at 33 & 2nd at 36. I think you’ll be able to fit in a couple more if that’s what you want!

    • MichelleAntonia

      JFC.. my mom had me at 40, and I tell people that proudly. It usually comes up with me because I’m a twin, but if anyone ever openly judged that, I’d let them know exactly what I think about it. When someone starts up with that bs, just nod and say that’s nice, IDGAF 😉

  • S.Dekk

    I’m currently 8 months pregnant with twins and I’m still shocked when people ask, “Are they natural? Did you use fertility treatments?”. Strangers and friends alike have asked these questions. Though I’m very open about our pregnancy journey I feel it’s a bit out of bounds for people to ask how I obtained my miracles. A simple “congratulations” will do!

    • I have twins, too. Unfortunately I still get this question, and my girls are almost 3!!!

  • I think the ask before touch the belly is extremely important. I’ve never been pregnant but I can imagine what an invasion of space and privacy for a stranger to just go up to a woman and start touching her stomach. Great tips!!

    || D I A N A ||

    http://www.TheNeonFactor.com

  • I totally agree about asking married couples when they are having kids. That is so rude and you never know if they are having trouble!! All of these rules are great and polite rules to remember.

    xoxo Mollie

    http://www.molliebellezza.com

  • Milena McCormack

    When people ask how much weight you’ve gained during the pregnancy….or subtly try to ask by saying “you don’t look like you’ve gained much” or “you’re all belly” etc.

  • Stefanee Marie Reid

    I had someone tell me that I’ve gained weight and that they could see it in my face. Hurtful when they didn’t know I am expecting.

    • Arleigh Bors

      I had a cashier tell me that when I was only 18 weeks along and had just started showing in the belly. She said that she could tell that I was pregnant because my face looked like it had some swelling. It wasn’t, this is just my face (which is what I should have told her), but who thinks it is okay to say that to someone?!?

  • Audrey

    My peeve of the moment: My little girl is 6 1/2 months and people already ask me when she will get a sibling. I am a first time mom enjoying every waking second I have soaking up my beautiful Lincoln Grace and another baby right now just seems plain out selfish, not to mention nowhere in my upcoming plans for the year…

  • Remi

    #1 THANK YOU! I recently got married and we keep getting this question! We would like to spend some time as a couple before trying and that’s ok…

  • Love these! I’m 6 months pregnant tomorrow and am so happy that I’m still very tiny and don’t have people touching me yet. It would drive me insane to have people constantly touching me. And i’ve only had one rude comment about my size from an old friend of mine. The lack of abs has been hard on me and she commented to tell me I looked huge a few weeks ago =/ so I might have to casually post this on Facebook and hope she reads it lol

    • MichelleAntonia

      No, straight up tag her LOL

      • I might have to haha I’ve been really struggling with my new body and that comment just didn’t help!

  • Lissa Jones

    YESSS to rule #1. I dedicated a blog to telling my story about the struggles with infertility, my husband and I had. It is so important that the message in rule #1 continues to spread throughout the world…too many couples struggle privately.
    http://lissaann5.wixsite.com/jjourney

  • Katie

    I don’t know what it is about being pregnant that suddenly makes the entire world think that every single aspect of your body/life is suddenly open for public discussion. I am currently 7 months pregnant & my husband’s brother (who I am not at all close to) thinks that it is now suddenly appropriate to ask me about my bathroom habits. Um, no, I do not want to discuss whether or not pregnancy has made me constipated. Why? Because it is absolutely none of your business! My father in law also seems to think that it’s now appropriate to ask me how much weight I’ve gained – & I don’t meant he’s asked me this once – I mean he asks me this question every single time I see him (which is a couple of times a week). I always laugh and say, “I’ve gained enough,” & instead of taking the hint, he continues to press for the exact amount of pounds I’ve gained. It’s just strange to me – pregnancy does not mean that it’s ok to ask these kinds of questions. My general rule is: If you wouldn’t ask me these questions when I’m not pregnant, then it is it not ok to ask them while I am pregnant.

  • Živilė Dap

    Absolutely agree on all of them! And cannot thank you enough for stating the no.1 !

    Jill

    Jill D Blog

  • Amanda

    I get this one quite often, “Oh you’ve never had a child, you don’t know any better,’ when stating what products I am interested in researching or purchasing for my soon to be baby – its so very frustrating and rude! Also, women comparing other pregnant women at work based on their size and how some women surely dont take care of themselves. I am only on my first and I realize that every woman carries different, especially with their first. I just started showing two weeks ago and I am six months along – everyBODY is different and beautiful in our own ways.

  • Amanda Sottosanti

    I can’t believe these are still concepts we need to drive home, but they are all so true! Although I am not expecting, #1 is something brought up to me and my fiance all the time, and we can’t stand it! Amen to this post! 🙌🏻

  • Bev

    And don’t kiss the baby! I was in shock when a waitress (not even our waitress), stopped at our table, bent over, and kissed my baby’s head! It was the middle of the winter and he was only about 7 weeks old. I was so horrified and worried he could get sick from germs she was spreading. I felt very violated. He’s a year now and thankfully very healthy!

  • I had kids young, I was 25 with my first, 26 with my second. They’re 16 months apart and almost EVERYONE asked me if my second was planned. A. That’s none of your business and B. What does it matter?! It was very frustrating!

    • Elly Brown

      haha! I have Irish twins (under a year apart) and I get asked that ALL the time!

      • I reached a point where I just started playing along saying no and asking if they wanted the baby 😂 turned the awkward questions of them haha! Irish twins are the best! ❤️

  • Burks Heather

    I was purchasing a pregnancy test from a drug store years ago and the cashier asked me if I was hoping for a positive or negative result and I about fell over. That was a very difficult time in my life and I was quite terrified of the results so to have a total stranger ask me such a personal question shocked me, increased my anxiety, and made for a very difficult drive home. God blessed me with children and few years later and I now have two adorable toddlers!! I have degenerative disc disease, sciatica, and other health issues resulting from a burst vertebrae so I gained alot of weight with my first pregnancy. My son was born June 28th 2014, and my daughter was born July 5th 2015. I carried the baby weight from my 1st pregnancy with me into my second pregnancy and due to the health issues mentioned and a hernia, and a blockage in my intestines, my stomach below my ribs cage is larger than below where you normally carry a child. I am still being asked when I am due even 2 years later. I end up crying every time because I hate the way my belly looks and I want nothing more than to have my petite frame back. I now suffer from social anxiety and struggle any time I must get ready for a family function or social gathering. So I totally agree with Lauren and her advice when it comes when someone is due. You never know what someone else is going through physically or emotionally so please refrain from asking questions or commenting. Have a very blessed day.

    • Kirstin Meakin

      I’ve been trying for years and I’ve had the ‘are you hoping for a positive or negative?’ so many times now and it’s heart breaking every single time. I also went to a shop once and my husband was outside, i think it was too hot in the shop or something, but the cashier obviously saw him leave me to go out and asked ‘I take it he doesn’t know?! Is he the father?!’ First off – Who says there’s a baby in there?! Secondly – Did you just insinuate I cheated on him?? Some people ask such rude questions.

  • Hannah

    I hated the question if I will work until the end. They constantly told me I will struggle and it will be too hot. Firstly I didn’t know how I will feel and secondly I was also able to work from home.

    I also didn’t like people commenting on me still doing sports at the end of my nine months. They thought I am obsessed with my body but actually I went to yoga and Pilates to prepare my body for birth, went swimming to feel relieved to not feeling the weight und went for a walk to keep active.

  • Karen Heath

    Don’t ask if the baby was “on purpose”, planned, were you trying, an accidental pregnancy, or any other questions of this ilk.

  • I have twins, and ever since the news broke that I was pregnant, I’ve gotten so many intrusive questions. One the bothers me the most (I still get this question.) is, “Do twins run in your family?” It just really strikes a nerve with me, but I somehow respond happily.

  • MichelleAntonia

    My rule of thumb is just offering congrats when someone tells me they’re pregnant (I won’t do it otherwise), and fawning over the cuteness of their baby when I see them. Everything else is WAY too sticky!

  • Eve

    I am 8 months pregnant and my significant other and I are not married. I was introduced to a coworker of his and when I walked away she asked him if we were married and when he replied, “no” she asked “well, is the baby yours?” “if so, you guys need to get married.” We have been together 4 years and we’ve both been asked that question once. It is the strangest thing! I feel like they are implying that since we are not married we are not recognized as a committed couple and we must stray out of our relationship. It would have hurt if it came from someone closest to us but these two people were acquaintances, if that. People def l forget their place.

  • OMG THE FIRST ONE MATTERS TO ME SO MUCH

    I am so tired of everyone asking me and my husband when we’re going to have kids, or when we tell them we’re not, they tell us that we’ll change our minds. That’s so rude… I get so angry when it happens, and people still think it’s their place to impose what fertility expectations they have on me – or constantly think it’s necessary to bring it up.

    http://herestothegoldendays.blogspot.com

  • Rimke

    How about: never tell a pregnant woman about your own labour. Please wait until she has delivered the baby and only when she’s interested. When I was pregnant of my first, all other women told me their horror stories about their labour. A pregnant woman is really not helped by that, you only scare her off.

    • Ellie

      Yes! Why tell me about an emergency c section or 12 lb baby?

  • Kim Jeurissen

    Thank you for this discussion!
    I have a 16months old girl and the times I’ve been asked about a second child are countless.
    As in #1, this is a very personal topic for the same reasons. Yet, having to answer this question every time adds pressure, although I (we) won’t change our mind… I find myself always explaining why we don’t rush a second pregnancy. Tips on how you respond in a polite way without having to defend yourself are very welcome 😊.
    Winter greetings from Belgium, *** Kim

  • If only the whole world could read some of these pointers…

    One of the things people have “told” me is how i should have a baby one day to the point where they would pray for me to have a baby a certain way(i.e I should have natural/ water birth/ c-section) This is one of those no- go comments that could basically end the relationship.

  • jodi anderson

    While in labor with my son , I had a stroke. My heart stopped and so did his for 10 seconds. Four doctors recommended I didn’t have any more children, they found I have a heart murmur. When people would ask me when I was going to have more it broke my heart, because not that I couldn’t have more,but that I shouldn’t have more. Then they would exclaim “Oh but you can’t make him an only child.” I told them if God wants me to have more it will happen, if not I am happy with what he gave me. * When are you going to have more or don’t make them an only child is just as rude.*

  • Barb

    Someone I work with committed the first sin last week. She asked where my baby was and I told her my fur baby is at doggy daycare. (Haha, just to avoid the question.) She went on to scold me about how it’s never a good time to have a baby. Little did she know that my husband and I are dealing with infertility and seeing a specialist. When I told her, she changed the topic pretty fast!

  • I appreciate how these ‘tips’ are actually written as rules – because they should be as such! I posted a Blog a while back about what not to say to a pregnant woman and shared my experience with getting back in shape.
    http://www.bitesforfoodies.com/blog/what-not-to-say-to-a-pregnant-woman/

  • Samantha Robles

    I’m 9 months pregnant and my husband had a former coworker who constantly asked if I had hemroids, swollen ankles or stretch marks. It was crossing a line considering that she was asking my husband and always was prodding for an answer. 😳

  • Kim Jeurissen

    I shared my etiquette experience below. But maybe I would like to add a topic that might be interesting to address in the future.
    As you decide to become a parent, it involves thinking about what kind of parent you want to be. On the internet and in the book stores you get so overwhelmed by everybody who has an idea how parenting should be … One hype follows the other…
    Luckily I am blessed with my own mother as my role model. When I asked her (before I even knew I wanted a kid) how she managed to do such an amazing job, she just answered me that she always followed her own feeling. She never read a book about development or parenting. Needless to say, I do the same. Sure, I get inspired a lot by the people around me.
    My best friend told me when I was pregnant and insecure: Kim, a parent is something you become (bad translation for the sentence in dutch, but it basically means that you grow into it, little by little).
    So as a topic it would be powerful to address how someone can grow in their own role as a parent, trusting what they feel, ignoring everybody’s opinion.
    By doing this, you assume that everybody has the qualities to be the parent that they want to be, what in my opinion is stronger than any bestseller book. ***Kim

  • jodi anderson

    Here’s another one…”It’s about time!!!”

  • Katie P

    I found out I was pregnant right before this past Thanksgiving so trying to hide my lack of wine over the holidays was a challenge. I had two aunts ask two infuriating questions. One was: “I noticed you’re not drinking – is there anything you would like to share?” While seated around 6 family members. Second was: “I just have to ask – are you pregnant yet?” It was so invasive and in reality – is that how you want to find out? By putting someone on the spot? I started to avoid family events after the holidays until we’re ready to tell everyone (I’m finally 12 weeks, yay!)

  • SRaj

    #1 resonates with me. My husband and I have been struggling with fertility for nearly two years, and it’s been extremely difficult. I made the mistake of telling friends we were trying (I made the decision not to drink anymore and my friends kept asking if I was pregnant, so I just told them) and now I get questions about it all the time. While it is nice to have support, it’s really hard to talk about it with people who conceived so easily, and I really hate feeling like they’re pitying me.

    Anyway, this is all to say–I find reading others stories of infertility to be so helpful, so if there are any hopeful insights Team LC could share on getting through infertility, I’d love that!

  • Alison Nudo

    Please share pregnancy fashion tips! I have been struggling hardcore trying to stay fashionable! xo

  • Laura

    Definitely agree with #3!! This is my second pregnancy, and both times I heard nonstop how I “didn’t even look pregnant” and was “so small” and people were dubious I was as far along as I was. A lot of people meant it as a compliment!! I wrote a blog post about it: https://pregotolegos.blogspot.com/2016/11/fyi-saying-i-dont-look-pregnant-is-not.html

  • Madalena

    You basically only talked about before pregnancy!
    During pregnancy: DO NOT ASK ABOUT THE WEIGHT!! I don’t know why, but people really think that they can comment about how big are you and judge you by your weight.
    And why do people think they can have an opinion about everything, from the name to the school??? Really wierd! Pregnancy is not a community thing people

    • Katie

      Omg, yes, with the name! I’m 7 months pregnant and for the first 6 months my father in law constantly hinted that we name the baby after him. That got annoying pretty quickly. Then i made the mistake of telling family members the name we chose. Everyone thought that meant they could give their opinion on the name. It was insulting. I just told you what we’re naming the baby and you’re responding by suggesting different names because you don’t like what we picked? Next time, I’m not telling anyone the name until after the baby is born. I don’t want anyone else’s opinion on the name.

  • Also don’t tell them what they can and can’t eat and offer them random advice they never asked for (especially if this is not someone you know intimately.) I got asked by an acquaintance at a party what cup-size my breasts are now and she told her husband to have a look at how big breasts had grown.
    I also got random comments about how I should not be eating sugar/chocolate/cheese, which is fine for my doctor to tell me but not random lady on the metro. And don’t let me start on the looks you get when you drink coffee/jaywalk/drink juice from a champagne-flute.

    Just assume that this is still a grownup woman not a brainless baby-carrier.

  • Jill Faulkner-Bogdan

    NEVER ask if its multiples. I was pregnant with my second in hottest summer on record. I had carted my toddler and her friend about a mile in a wagon to a local festival and I was feeling unstoppable then a vendor at yhe festival asked “When are you due?” When i replied that still had about 7 weeks to go she said “Wow! Are you SURE its not twins.” 😳 My daughter is 3 months old and i am still mad about it.

  • Lisa Autumn

    HAHA I love this post.. I can honestly not understand how some people seriously say or do these things.. god :/

    xx Lisa
    lisaautumn.com

  • Szimi

    Oh I’ve seen the 4th one so kany times, done especially by old people who should know better. On the topic of kids and old people, don’t give stranger’s children life lessons. I see this all the time on the tram, a parent is sitting with their kids minding theirvown business and an elderly person just has to sit next to them unleashing their life learnings on the kid. Shouldn’t they ask for permission to talk to them or touch them?

  • Autem

    Besides people commenting on how small my bump is, it really gets on my nerves when people (that I feel close to) ask how I’m doing, and I give an honest reply… “tired of running to the bathroom”, “out of breath and exhausted”, “like a whale”, and they reply with “Oh just wait” or “You haven’t experienced anything yet”. Please don’t ask me how I’m doing and then imply that my response is invalid or that I apparently haven’t felt reeeally pregnant. I’m pregnant, sympathize with me or don’t ask how I am feeling. I’ve resorted to smiling and “feeling good!” when asked, it’s just easier.

  • Eliza

    How about never ask a women who’s expecting twins or multiples if it is ‘natural’. It’s really no ones business if it runs in the family or they used fertility drugs because they were struggling.

  • C

    Don’t ask “was it planned.”