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Feb 25, 2006

What not to say to the pregnant women around the office

Now that Miss Minchin has stepped over to the other side of motherhood, she has become much more aware of the awfully insensitive, ignorant, or downright rude things that some people seem to spontaneously utter to women who are expecting. Below are the top things one should never say:

1. Wow, you're huge! Are you sure you don't have twins in there?
When tempted to react to the size of your pregnant coworker's belly, try to remember a few things:
  • You are not a medical doctor (unless you actually are, and if so you should really know better). Do not try to assess or question an expecting mother's development. She sees her doctor every four weeks and would really much rather get evaluated by her.
  • Pregnant women's bodies are not any more appropriate to comment on than any other woman's body at work.
  • Whether she is large or not, she probably feels as big as a house. Her body has taken over and she no longer has any control. This can be emotionally difficult, don't make her feel any worse, or any more unattractive.

2. You don't look that big, are you sure you're that far along?
Expecting mothers, and especially first-time moms can experience a high degree of anxiety about their own progress, their baby's welfare, etc. Remember all the points above, and don't give her anything extra to worry about. Every woman, and every pregnancy is different. If her doctor thinks she is devloping just fine, that should be all that matters. Again, you are not a doctor, you do not know this woman's medical history, so just zip it.

3. Was this a planned pregnancy?
Do you really think you have a right to know all about the woman's contraceptive methods, fertility issues, or family planning? Seriously.

4. You're going to name her that? Oh, no that's an awful name...
If you ask, or are told the baby's planned name, react just like you would as if you were being introduced to the baby. Keep your opinion about the name to yourself. Imagine if you were introduced to someone, and their reaction was "That's your name? Oh, no, I think Bernie is a much better name for you." Most parents have put a lot of thought into a name that is very special to them, has personal significance, or is treasured in some way. You have no place to interject your opinion into the mix. Even if the name they choose is Slartibartfast, keep your trap shut.

5. Oh that's nothing, when I was pregnant (horror story ensues)...and there was blood everywhere!
I know that seeing another pregnant woman can cause you to reflect on your special time, and any special hardship that you went through, and that you are a much stronger person for having gone through it, but believe me, this is the last thing an expecting mother wants to hear. She has enough to deal with in preparation for her own big day, she doesn't need more things to worry about. And really, this information is way too personal to be sharing with coworkers. Oh and don't compare your pregnancy to hers, every woman is different.

6. Should you be eating/drinking that?
Unless it's a bottle of poison, or a bottle of vodka, butt out. Pregnant women can pretty much eat/drink anything in moderation, even a glass of wine now and then (not that I would). Up to three cups of coffee a day are considered safe, or 300 mg of caffeine. If you see an expecting mother enjoying a Coke, or a bag of chips, or a cup of coffee, leave the poor girl alone. For all you know, it's the first coffee she's had in 3 months, and she drinks nothing but water and juice otherwise. Don't imply she's a bad mother from one item you notice her ingesting.

7. You keep eating like that, and you'll be huge!
What is it about being pregnant that makes everyone think your body is public domain? Would you ever say anything like this to a coworker who is not pregnant? Pregnant women need to eat 300 more calories a day to support their growing fetus, so back off fatty.

8. Aren't you cold/hot in that? You're wearing that?
Let's get one thing straight - maternity clothes suck. Not only do they suck, but they tend to be overpriced and poor quality. If you see your pregnant coworker in a light cotton top in February, it may be because nothing else fits. How would you like to have to purchase a whole new wardrobe every 2 months? Sometimes, stores stop selling winter clothes in preparation for the next season. And, pregnancy makes you really tired, so it's even harder to go shopping than usual. So sometimes, a pregnant woman will take what she can get. And sometimes that means ill-fitting light cotton shirts in February, because the stores are all out of maternity sweaters in her size. So give her a break, it's probably a touchy subject.

9. You're not doing a natural birth? I had all five of my kids without so much as a Tylenol.
Listen, just because something is a natural process doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell. Passing a kidney stone is a natural process, but you don't see people bragging about passing theirs without pain medication. Respect a woman's decision about her own birthing experience, and try to remember that it is none of your business. You may have been blessed with all the right factors that made your birthing experience easy. This doesn't mean that every woman is.

10. Who's the father?
For some reason, people think this is a really funny joke to make.

And lastly, don't even think about touching her belly.
Other posts you may enjoy:
What to say to pregnant women around the office
LinkedIn Etiquette
Workplace Dangers: Manipulative people
Dear manager: What is management going through during a layoff?

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