How to Respond to Unwanted Pregnancy Advice

It's okay to set boundaries

Of all the things you hear about pregnancy, you may not have heard about all the unsolicited advice and opinions people will give you. From your family, to your co-workers, to total strangers, it might seem like everyone has something to say.

While some of this advice might be helpful, you may find yourself feeling awkward or uncomfortable, or even feeling obligated to listen to others talk to you about your pregnancy.

Fortunately, there are ways to set healthy boundaries and things you can do to curb some of the unwanted opinions you receive from others. Remember, it is your pregnancy and it is your body, and you are in charge!

Things You Might Hear

Just like every pregnancy is different, every question, comment, and piece of advice you’ll receive during pregnancy is different, too—but there are some pretty typical things expectant moms hear from everyone they meet. Here are the most common ones.  

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Stay Calm Mom: Dealing With Unsolicited Opinions & Questions

Unsolicited Advice

No matter how much research you’ve done, how many in-depth conversations you’ve had with your OBGYN, or the fact that this is your body and your baby, you may sometimes feel like you don’t know as much as the people handing out unsolicited advice. But this isn't the case.

Even if you're a new mom, you know what's best for you at the end of the day.

You might hear obnoxious comments such as “Make sure you don’t gain too much weight in the third trimester!” Or, you might hear, “Don’t get too stressed out at work. It’s not good for the baby!"

But no topic is off-limits. These advisees will tell you what to do about everything from breastfeeding and vaccination to pregnancy sex and episiotomies. You didn’t ask, but that doesn’t stop them. 

Inappropriate Comments and Opinions 

Before speaking to a pregnant women, people should become more aware that each pregnancy is different, and each pregnant woman could be in a different state of emotions, ranging from vulnerability, to stress, and more.

However, you may hear people inappropriately comment that your ankles are swollen, that expectant mothers should wear certain types of clothes (and not wear others), or that you shouldn't eat or drink a whole host of things while pregnant.

Listen to your doctor when it comes to changes in your body and things you should or should not consume, but other than that, don't feel like you must follow the rules that people will throw at you—especially because they're not always true.

Invasive Questions

Oftentimes, questions that are usually deemed “too personal” suddenly become the ones that people ask, putting expectant moms in the super awkward position of having to field inquiries about their breasts, vaginas, bowel movements, and everything in between. 

What You Can Do (And Say)

We’re going to split this up into two important categories: responding to strangers and to family or friends. It’s one thing when a random person at the supermarket asks a personal question because you’ll (probably) never see them again. It's another thing entirely when the person asking inappropriate questions is someone close to you. Therefore, your response is likely different.

How to respond when it’s a stranger:

  1. Keep it short and sweet. Whether you’re answering a question or addressing an inappropriate comment, try not to send the message that you’re open to discussion. A simple “yes” or “no” is fine. You can say “Thanks for the tip!” or “I’ll keep that in mind!” (even if you won't). Feel free not to say anything by nodding or smiling, and removing yourself from the situation.
  2. Ignore. You have the right to not engage at all. Remember that you are in charge. You can walk away completely, skipping the pleasantries entirely and just leaving. If you didn’t initiate a conversation with this person, you don’t owe their inappropriate comment a response.
  3. Deflect. You can change the subject, hoping they’ll get the hint, or, you can make the point that it's not an appropriate question you feel comfortable answering. A straightforward "I don't like that question," or "I don't feel comfortable discussing that with you," works just fine.

Remember the power of just walking away, and you may even teach that person a lesson about intrusive questions (even though it's certainly not your job to train them!).

You can handle a friend, co-worker, or family member in the exact same way as a stranger, especially if it’s someone you don’t see frequently or have a strong relationship with.

But establishing some boundaries with close family and friends can be helpful; otherwise, their bad behavior might persist, making you uncomfortable for the better part of your pregnancy (and maybe even after that, too, when the baby arrives).

How to respond when it’s someone you know:

  1. Be honest. Let the other person know how their comments or questions make you feel: “I don’t like talking about my weight...can we keep that off the table?” Sometimes people truly don’t get that a topic they have no problem discussing is uncomfortable for someone else; you may have to tell them if you want them to understand. 
  2. Set limits. With contentious family dynamics, you may have to first voice your issue and, second, let people know what will happen if they can’t respect your feelings. For example, if you’ve decided to go back to work after your maternity leave and your mother-in-law constantly criticizes that choice, tell her it’s not up for discussion: you would like her support, but if she can’t give it, then you would like her to stop bringing it up with you. If she can’t do that, you will walk out of the room/hang up the phone/mute her texts/do whatever you need to remove yourself from the conversation anytime it comes up.
  3. Redirect. Sometimes people just want to help but have no idea how. If your well-meaning friend keeps giving you her opinion on sleep training, ask for her advice choosing a crib or bassinet instead. She’ll rest assured knowing she helped you prepare for your baby’s sleep and, meanwhile, you’ll get something you actually need in return.

A Word From Verywell

We know that confronting something that makes you uncomfortable, especially during pregnancy, can create even more anxiety or discomfort—at first. But remember, if you can find the best way for you to address unwanted comments about your pregnancy, it's like flexing a muscle. The more you do it, the more at ease you will be in letting people know your boundaries. This is not only helpful for pregnancy, but for your entire lifetime.

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