Pregnant bellies and social no-nos

18 December 2020

A blog from The Wesley Hospital Obstetrician, Exxpectations' Dr Melinda Heywood:

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As well as being a time of excitement and anticipation, pregnancy can be a time tinged with anxiety. One of the things that causes my lovely pregnant ladies significant concern – even distress – is an unsolicited, insensitive comment on the size of their pregnant abdomen.

While remarking on the size of a woman’s belly at any other time is a social no-no, doing so when she is pregnant is, for some inexplicable reason, not considered inappropriate. Comments such as, “Really? You’re not due until December? It looks like that baby could come tomorrow!”, or “Are you sure you’re not having twins?!” (Note: Of course she’s sure – it’s 2020, people!) To some women, such remarks equate to being called fat, or implying she’s carrying a HUGE baby to which she has yet to give birth – eek! Or, on the other hand, “You look really small for 36 weeks – is your baby growing ok?” Not uncommonly, my lovely pregnant ladies come to their appointments quite upset and worried about such comments.

It is worth noting that 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘻𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘯𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯’𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘶𝘭, 𝘣𝘶𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘳 (midwife, GP, obstetrician). It is impossible to tell just by looking how many weeks pregnant a woman is, or how big her baby is – even for qualified care providers! So please – don’t make comments on the size of a pregnancy bump – ever.

Feel free, of course, to say kind things. In fact, please say kind things. “You look amazing!”, “Pregnancy suits you!”, “How can I help? May I drop off a meal for your freezer, or care for your toddler while you have a date night out?”

May I please encourage you to think – in fact, think, think, think – before you speak? Are my words kind? Are they encouraging? Are they positive? And, as my grandmother often said, ‘If you have nothing kind to say, say nothing.’ Remember – language matters. Please be kind.

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