Pregnancy — who asks the way goes astray


Pregnancy — who asks the way goes astray

“Are you pregnant?!” Ye, who’s never asked that question may first cast a stone. I have. Many times. Until one day I realised that it’s like tiptoeing on thin ice which covers a vast ocean of people’s drama.

Paulina Pomaska

Published: 29.01.2021 5 minreading time

Asking about pregnancy illustration by Jarek Danilenko

Illustration: Jarek Danilenko

Once, I came across the “recommended” answer to this insensitive question. It was: “some are blessed with children, others with politeness”. But it’s not about impoliteness but rather the lack of empathy and imagination on the part of the asker, or sometimes a sheer confidence that every young human being should procreate.

Asking someone if they’re pregnant (or not) is complicated because, regardless of the reasons, or the fact whether the person we’re talking to wants to share this information with us, the situation gets difficult, uncomfortable, or, at least, tense.

When can you ask a woman if she’s pregnant?

Please, bear with me for a little longer. I’ll answer that question later. Let’s focus now on some possible scenarios:

We ask if she’s pregnant:

  • And what if it’s just the way she looks? No biggie if she likes her body. But what if we’ve met a person who’s obsessed with calories, diets, and exercising? Or someone with health problems? Suggesting that that person is pregnant will certainly not improve their mindframe.

We ask why she’s NOT pregnant:

  • And what if she simply doesn’t want to have children? By asking, we corner that person. An honest answer may expose them to criticism or unfriendly comments. And it’s their lives and choices for which they don’t have to explain themselves. Besides, the decision NOT to have children is usually a sign of deep self-awareness. Not everyone is meant to be a parent and it’s good to recognise that.

  • And what if someone wants to have children but cannot have them? Maybe there are sterility issues at hand (ergo, getting pregnant is impossible)? Or maybe someone is infertile (ergo, they’ve been trying to get pregnant for at least a year, but to no avail)? It’s estimated that infertility affects 1 in 5 couples trying to conceive a child. That is, by asking if they’re pregnant, you get a 20% chance of stabbing them in the already bleeding heart. “I’ve got endometriosis”; “I have low sperm count”; “I have abnormal sperm production”; “Despite numerous tests, we don’t know the causes of infertility”. Go ahead! Which one of these answers would you like to be confronted with?

  • And what if someone cannot have children because they had the necessary organs removed? Someone might have had serious complications during their previous pregnancy or they might have fought cancer. You never know what your interlocutor has been through and how much time it took for them to piece their world back together.

  • And what if someone has just had a miscarriage? Maybe they’ve just put on one of their finest masks and are doing everything not to fall apart and give in to the looming depression that’s just around the corner? Maybe they’ve been avoiding social interactions fearing that ominous question which to the majority is as innocent and normal as asking about profession or favourite food.

  • And maybe someone IS pregnant but doesn’t want to share that information with you? Because you two aren’t close enough. Or maybe you are, but it’s too soon? Okay, but what if you know each other well and there’s no doubt that they’re pregnant, can you ask when they’re due, you might wonder. The answer is again: NO. Such a question is, at best, invasive but in fact — straightforwardly rude because the recipient may feel uncomfortable to share such personal information.

I once thought that having children is a natural step in everyone’s lives. You grow up which means that you automatically have to “populate” the planet. It’s your chief assignment.

So to answer the question I’ve asked earlier: NEVER ask if someone’s pregnant. I know now that if you’re not the future parent that’s anxious about the well-being of your partner, a doctor, chemist, dentist, or anyone who could somehow influence the potential pregnancy — you better shut up.

How to know if someone is pregnant without asking?

Let’s consider the possibility that you are a person who virtually MUST know if someone’s pregnant but you’re civilised enough not to ask the question directly. Are there ways of finding that out? Message boards abound in tips for the inquisitive, so let’s check them up:

Look for change in clothing. 

Many women start wearing looser clothes as their bellies begin to grow, so if she’s changed her clothing style for no apparent reason, you might suspect that she’s trying to hide a “bump”.

Listen when they talk about their eating habits.

Changes in appetite or refraining from eating certain foods may indicate that someone is pregnant. Unusual cravings or aversion to their favourite snacks might just give you a hint that you’re desperately looking for.

Pay attention to what they’re complaining about.

Pregnancy leads to numerous physical changes in your body, some of which may include fatigue or pain. So if they suddenly start complaining about headaches, nausea, or lower back pain, it might be a giveaway.

The “eye test”.

A 16th-century doctor, Jacques Guillemeau, proclaimed a theory saying that you can tell that a person is pregnant by checking their eyes. He claimed that “a pregnant woman gets deep-set eyes with small pupils, drooping lids and swollen little veins in the corner of the eye”. Unfortunately for some, the only eyes-related changes pertain to variations in vision, which is why it’s not a good idea to invest in a new pair of glasses or contacts while you’re expecting.

Important “pregnancy” questions

Let us finally look at the matter from the most significant perspective — the mother-to-be’s one. As a matter of fact, there are no stupid question about pregnancy, so your ob-gyn should be able to anwer all your enquiries. You have the right, an obligation even, if you’re uncertain, to ask all kinds of questions — from: “what types of food should I avoid” to “should I get genetic testing”.

Many people fear that they can get sacked for not telling their bosses about their pregnancy. Well, labour laws may differ from one country to another, but most of them have implemented various forms of anti-discrimination legislation, including sections devoted to the protection of pregnant persons. However, check for details in order to make sure that you’re protected by the law in your current place of residence.

So is it okay to ask about pregnancy?

Let me reiterate this: do not ask IF someone is pregnant or not when you’re unsure. However, when you are sure that someone is expecting a child, here’s what you can do. 

An “are you okay” question won’t do any good here. Instead, it’s always better to ask HOW you may help someone. Whether it’s as simple as giving up your seat in public transport or offering to carry something heavy for them, or offering to convert a room into a nursery, these are the ways in which you can prove useful for pregnant people. One last thing to remember: don’t intrude on people if they reject your help, but try to always be there if they ask for assistance.

Sources [Accessed: 27.01.2021][Accessed: 27.01.2021] [Accessed: 27.01.2021]


Paulina Pomaska
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