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WHAT TO AVOID SAYING TO AN EXPECTANT PARENT

February 5, 2024by Lauren0

Many well intentioned loved ones are eager to check in with the expectant parent in their life. Unfortunately, sometimes well meaning people can add to the stress of an expectant parent without realizing it.

Here are some tips for what to avoid when talking to a pregnant person, ESPECIALLY close to the due date:

1. Have you had your baby yet?

  • Pregnant people are painfully aware of their due date and every hour, day, and week that passes before the baby is born. As such, any reminders that…Yes, they are still pregnant can add to the stress of these final moments of pregnancy.

  • If this is the first pregnancy, it is not uncommon for labor to occur up to two weeks after the due date. Sometimes these final weeks can be incredibly uncomfortable physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  • Instead of asking whether or not the baby has arrived, trust the pregnant person to let you know when the baby has arrived. When checking in say “I am thinking about you and love you.” Don’t require a response. Remember their life may be hectic at this point in time and they are likely not intentionally ignoring you.

2. Wow! It looks like you are going to have a big baby

  • No matter how tempting it is to compare the size of a pregnant person’s belly to any other pregnant person you have seen or even your own experience, RESIST THE URGE. Every pregnant person’s body is different and carries their baby differently. The size of a baby is often a worry for pregnant people as they near their due date, particularly if they plan to give birth vaginally or are self-conscious about their body image.

  • In reality the size of a baby is rather hard to predict by the size of a person’s belly, nor does it indicate ability or inability to give birth vaginally. Having a larger baby can be associated with gestational diabetes, but on the other hand, a larger baby can indicate a well nourished mother and well functioning placenta.

3. You are going to NEED an epidural

  • Birth is a highly personal experience. Imagine asking someone what position they conceived in. It is a highly personal experience and quite frankly NOT anyone’s business.

  • By directly telling a pregnant person that they will need an epidural, you are inadvertently communicating the message that birth is painful and they are not capable. On the flip side, asking a leading question such as do you plan to give birth naturally or have a C section presumes that there is a right way and wrong way to give birth and can feel shaming, particularly if their labor does not go according to their wishes. Sometimes circumstances change during birth that are not in the pregnant person’s control and require flexibility.

  • Our language impacts our mindset and can be easily influenced by the words of the people closest to us. Giving birth is one of the first acts of parenting, so believing that they are doing it wrong can lead to beliefs that they are already a failure as a parent.

4. When I gave birth…

  • Sharing your birth story may feel like a way to relate, however; if unsolicited, this may lead to comparison and anxiety which can impact the person’s birth experience.

  • Instead, allow a pregnant person to ask you if they would like to hear your birth story or have questions about your experience in birth. Encourage them that everyone’s experience is different and labor can be intense yet positive.

6. You really shouldn’t eat that

  • If you have been pregnant in the past 20 years, you know that the recommendations on what is acceptable or not acceptable to put in your body is ever evolving as doctors learn more through research. It can be tempting to provide advice, but this is not your role.

  • Trust that pregnant people are receiving advice from their OBGYN or Midwife on their nutrition during pregnancy and the amount of weight gained during pregnancy may very from person to person regardless of what they eat.

  • If you are offering to cook for a pregnant person, ask them if they have any food aversions or specific nutritional requirements at the time you offer as this may change throughout their pregnancy. They are not being “fussy.” Some foods may be desirable at one point in their pregnancy and cause heartburn or nausea the next.

7. Don’t lift that!

  • A common myth of pregnancy is that expectant mothers should limit their exercise and the amount of weight they lift. Similar to other aspects of pregnancy, this is highly individual and depends more on what a pregnant person’s exercise regiment looked like prior to pregnancy. For example, a weight lifter is not going to need to limit themselves to lifting 10lbs or less.

  • While it is important to recognize and respect how the body changes during pregnancy, telling them not to do something physically can feel disempowering. REMEMBER people who are pregnant are not powerless. Trust the pregnant person to listen to their body for indications of what they can or cannot do comfortably.

8. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help

  • While many ask this question out of a desire to be supportive, it can unintentionally put pressure on a pregnant person to think of something that they need and navigate the social context of what is appropriate to ask for. This offer is vague and a pregnant person may not remember who has offered help or when.

  • If you live nearby, you can offer a specific form of support such as offering to walk their dog or bring them a meal in disposable containers. Don’t expect a thank you as they likely have a lot going on. Do not be offended if they say no to your offer for help. They may have a lot of other people offering support or simply not be in need of what you are offering at that time.

9. Are you planning on breastfeeding?

  • Similar to asking how a pregnant person plans on delivering, asking whether or not someone plans on breastfeeding is a highly personal question. Some women may want to breastfeed but may have difficulty and this question can lead to feelings of shame. For others, the choice to use formula or pump may be important to their self-care and lifestyle.

  • Trust that them and their family. If they want your advice or experience, they will ask.

10. How much time are you planning to take off from work?

  • This question presupposes that they are both working and are planning on returning to work. While some parents may choose not to return to work, others may find that full or part time work is the best option for them. There is no right or wrong choice.

  • Trust that the expectant parent and their partner, if they have one, will do what is best for their family and will ask for advice if they want it.

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