What to Say to People With Opinions About Your Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is that time in a woman's life when her entire life seems to be changing. Not only is her body experiencing lots of changes in a very short period of time, but the realization that her life will never be the same starts to set in as well.

For this reason, many expectant mothers may question their abilities as a parent or start to wonder if they have what it takes. This can create high levels of anxiety, especially if they are also being bombarded with ideas, information, and suggestions on everything from breastfeeding and cloth diapers to what to eat and whether they should stay at home.

As a result, it is not surprising that, while sometimes well-intentioned, the unsolicited pregnancy advice that others dole out without thinking can start to make an expectant mom's head spin. If you frequently find yourself in this situation, rest assured you are not alone. Every pregnant woman has experienced some unsolicited advice at least once during her pregnancy.

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How to Deal With Unwanted Pregnancy Advice

Why People Share Advice

There is no doubt that it is hard to ignore the barrage of advice you receive, especially if there is a tone of judgment or shaming in the remarks. And in the age of the internet where mom-shaming has become a sport, an expectant mother is often bombarded with tips and trends as soon she opens her browser. Instead of being surrounded by a supportive community of family and friends, women are now drowning in a deluge of voices offering tips on what to do and what not to do.

It's as if people sometimes forget that there is a person with feelings attached to that protruding belly. People feel it is their right to comment on everything from a mom-to-be's weight, size, and shape to the sex of her baby. They also feel it is perfectly acceptable to laugh, make jokes, and ask completely inappropriate questions. The key to dealing with all of this is to remind yourself where it is all coming from. 

Many doctors believe that women experience something transformative during pregnancy and if they have been through it all before, they feel it is their job to help other women through the process. Their goal is to share all the things they wish someone had told them about pregnancy, childbirth, and newborns.

Additionally, many people offer their advice because pregnancy is exciting and they simply want to share in your experience. Keep in mind, most women enjoy remembering what it was like for them and just want to share their journey with you. So, if you suspect this is the case, simply smile politely and then move on. One day, you may what to share your experience with someone too.

However, there are always those few who are controlling or experts in their own minds and they don't want to simply offer a few suggestions, but instead try to force their thoughts and opinions on you. When that is the case, you will need a few tricks up your sleeve for dealing with them effectively. 

Tips for Receiving Advice

Having a support system of helpful family members, enthusiastic friends, and supportive co-workers can really make your pregnancy run a lot smoother. It also can be somewhat challenging if your supportive circle is opinionated, judgmental, and a little too "hands-on" for your liking. If that sounds like your situation, here are some ideas on how to deal with the barrage of unsolicited advice and suggestions they are about to heap on you.

Handle Dad and the In-Laws With Care

When the unwanted advice, suggestions—or maybe even controlling comments—come from the people you love, this can be especially difficult to deal with. If the person trying to sway you with their opinions is your spouse, it is best to talk about how these suggestions make you feel.

If they continue to insist on the dos and don'ts of pregnancy, including everything from what you eat to how much you sleep, then you might try getting them involved in other ways. Invite them to come to the doctor appointments with you or encourage them to feel the baby move. Many times spouses feel left out and instead of looking for healthier ways to get involved, they resort to trying to control you instead.

The same is true for the in-laws. Find ways to make them feel like they are part of the process. Doing so will make it easier when you and your spouse let them know how you plan to handle the pregnancy and that while you appreciate their advice, you have made your decision. It is important that you set the tone for who is in charge here from the beginning. This way, once the baby arrives, the in-laws will understand that while their advice is appreciated and sometimes useful, you are still the ones in charge. 

Put the Blame on the Doctor

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the information that people are sharing with you, especially if it has to do with things like co-sleeping, types of formula, or letting the baby cry it out, you can always lead with, "Well my doctor says that..."

This comment almost always works. Not only is it an easy out for a very awkward conversation, but it also reminds the advice-giver that you do in fact have an expert advising you on how to handle your pregnancy as well as how to care for your baby once he gets here.

Stay Silent

Sometimes when people are offering their advice, especially if these people are related to you in some way, the best course of action is to say nothing at all. While it may be tempting to try to educate them on why you are doing what you are doing, it also might be wise to remain quiet about why you made the decisions you did.

If you are never going to see eye-to-eye over something controversial, then it is sometimes better to avoid conflict and keep your opinions to yourself. Remember, not saying anything at all is still a response. And you are not required to explain yourself to people whose only goal is to prove you wrong or change your mind.

Send Strangers Packing

Whether it is an elderly woman at the grocery store, your boss's wife, or your mailman, you do not have to listen to the advice and comments of complete strangers unless you want to. Of course, the easiest way to deal with these situations is to nod, agree, smile and be as diplomatic as possible until you can make your exit.

You also could reply with a simple, "Interesting." But do not be afraid to send them packing if they are being rude or intrusive. It is completely acceptable to say, "Thank you for your opinion but really this decision is up to me and my partner." 

Smile and Nod Along With Self-Proclaimed Experts

Most people who offer advice during your pregnancy genuinely believe they are offering you something of value. Or, maybe they simply enjoy reliving their own experiences. But every once in awhile, you come across someone who loves to give advice because doing so makes them feel like an expert. As a result, they will take every opportunity they get to educate you or teach you something.

When you come in contact with these advice-givers, try simply agreeing with them. You can say things like, "You are right" and, "I agree" or even, "My doctor said the same thing." If you show them that you are not learning anything new from them, they will eventually stop offering you unwanted advice. 

Learn How to Block 

There are always those people who want to touch your belly. While some of them will ask first, there are others who will simply reach out and pat your belly. A lot of this stems from the fact that we live in a high-speed world where the lines between what is public and what is private have been blurred. However, do not feel that just because you are pregnant that your belly is somehow now part of the public domain.

Pregnancy does not have to be a public event unless you want it to be. So, if people are leaning in to touch your belly, you need to learn how to block them. One option is to keep something in front of your belly like a purse, a computer, or a glass of water. In fact, that is exactly what Grace Kelly did in 1956 when she didn't want a photographer to take a picture of her pregnant. The photo was published in Life magazine and quickly her purse became known as "the Kelly bag."

A Word From Verywell

Remember, everyone is going to have an opinion about what you should and shouldn't do during pregnancy. But in the end, the only opinion that really matters is your own. Do what you think is best for you and your baby. Then, be comfortable and secure in your choice. All the other opinions are just background noise to what is really important.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.