Category Archives: pregnancy

Dear World: Stop Asking! (This Means You.)

There are certain questions you never ask a woman. “Have you gained weight?” is really obvious, as is “Aren’t you married yet?” But one question that it seems no one has a filter for is “Are you pregnant?”

There are many reasons not to ask.

1) Weight/girth. In many cases, you are indirectly suggesting that she looks fat or pregnant but you can’t tell which. If she’s early in her pregnancy, you’re suggesting she just looks fat. If she’s very pregnant, it’s insulting that you haven’t caught on yet. As an ER nurse, I had to ask all women, “Is there any chance that you might be pregnant?” Often, I shortened it to, “Are you pregnant?” It’s especially relevant if the complaint is abdominal pain. I once asked a woman with abdominal pain that question and it just so happened that she did look pregnant due to a medical condition that caused abdominal bloating. Obviously, she was embarrassed at the question and later went to great lengths to explain why she looked pregnant but wasn’t and I had to apologize profusely.

2) Privacy. It may be an (unintentional) invasion of her privacy to ask. For example, I had a friend whose family, being Catholic, drinks alcohol at every family gathering. She had just had a miscarriage and was taking a medication which the patient cannot drink alcohol when taking. Whether a woman and her husband choose to disclose a miscarriage is their business; in her case, she and her husband chose not to. However, when she didn’t drink at the family gathering (again, because she couldn’t drink alcohol while taking the medication), they asked whether she was pregnant, which, because they had just lost a baby, was like a knife being dug into her chest. That heartache could have been avoided if they had just waited for her to tell them about her presumed pregnancy when she was ready.

3) Pressure. No woman should feel like she’s failing at her role as a woman if she doesn’t produce a child at a specified time. And although that’s definitely not the impression most potential grandparents intend to give, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s definitely the feeling the woman gets. If she’s having trouble getting pregnant, asking just highlights her difficulty and makes her more frustrated. If she’s in the process of deciding when to have another child, asking just irritates her because she hasn’t made up her mind yet and doesn’t want to feel pressured. (In fact, it may make her delay pregnancy even longer because the pressure ticks her off so much that, whether she realizes it or not, she has to overcome her anger before she can settle on the choice to have another child.)

4) Trust. Just trust that the woman will tell you when she’s ready. I know you’re just excited about the possibility of another baby, but asking will either make her tell you before she’s ready or won’t have any effect. Either way, you have an unhappy woman who wants to avoid you as much as possible because she knows you’re going to ask the same inane question again and again and she doesn’t want to be asked. She can have many reasons for not wanting to tell you yet. Maybe she hasn’t told her husband. Maybe she wants to wait until a miscarriage is not likely*. Whatever the reason, it’s rude and selfish to insist that she tell you before she’s ready.

To all who have already asked me personally: It’s okay. I know you aren’t in my shoes and you don’t know how I feel. Furthermore, not all of these apply to me—for example, I know you don’t just think I look fat. I’m not mad at you, but I am tired of being asked. So just stop asking.



*I’ve read very good articles, including interviews of the Duggars, about whether to wait or whether to share about a miscarriage or about an early pregnancy. As Dr. Seuss said in Horton Hears a Who, “a person’s a person no matter how small,” and you want to recognize the personhood of your tiny child. However, regardless of the reasons in favor of or against telling about a miscarriage or about a pregnancy during that time when miscarriage is more likely, it’s still the woman and her husband’s choice whether to say anything about it.