"So, when are you due?" It's a simple enough question but unless you're wearing a helmet and flak jacket, one it might be better not to ask.
In the early days of pregnancy you’re desperate to tell. The first 12 weeks are the longest of your life and you find yourself sticking out your still-flat belly in the hope someone will notice. But enjoy it while it lasts, because there comes a time when if you have to repeat your due date one more time you’ll scream.
As soon as your bump starts to show, you’ll be well and truly public property and the target of endless questions which range from the ridiculous to the downright rude.
It’s nice to begin with. The first time it happens you’ll happily talk scans and morning sickness with anyone who shows an interest. Then gradually you’ll see a pattern emerging until eventually you know what they’re going to ask before they even open their mouth.
"When are you due?" "Is it a boy or a girl?" "Have you thought of a name?"
Some will even ask whether you plan to breastfeed or "was it planned?" And that’s before the unwanted advice, commiserations over your massive weight gain or a blow by blow account of their own gruesome birth story.
"People are just being nice, but it’s exhausting," says Sam, 35. "At eight month’s pregnant I went to a conference where the delegates were all women, and on one short walk from my room to the lecture hall I had to answer the same questions more than 20 times. Every single one of them meant well, and not one of them realised they weren’t the first person to ask me that particular question that day."
"I wouldn’t mind if they actually listened to the answer," says Katie, 32. "But one mum at school asked my due date every time I saw her. I felt like stamping it on my forehead to save her the bother."
Then there’s the touching. Say goodbye to any concept of personal space as people think nothing of reaching out to grab your bump without thinking to ask first.
Midwife Denise Linay says, "Pregnancy can be a stressful time for many women, especially first-time mothers. You need to set boundaries and assess encounters on a case-by-case basis. Just be polite and perhaps say, ‘thank you, but I don’t feel comfortable discussing this with you."
"One friend insisted on stroking my bump throughout my first pregnancy," says Sarah, 30. "I found it really intrusive and it got so bad I dreaded seeing her, but I didn’t know how to tell her to stop. Second time around I was more confident. Without saying a word I just firmly removed her hand – she got the message and didn’t try again."
Moods and hormones
What is it about pregnancy that makes strangers want to stop and talk? And is it normal to be so irritated by their questions?
How you react has a lot to do with how you feel on the day. Let’s face it, most of the time you think, talk and breathe babies – and will sometimes welcome any excuse to talk about it. However, Denise, says: "Hormonal changes can make pregnant women feel more anxious than usual so unwelcome contact can make them feel uncomfortable"
Throw in a broken night and a bout of heartburn and woe betide anyone who even thinks of asking ‘how are you feeling?’
According to Denise it’s natural that people want to share their experiences.
In some cultures, a pregnant woman is lavished with attention as family and friends make sure she eats well and stays safe – after all she’s bearing the future generation. And aside from an in-built fascination with the whole process of pregnancy and birth, having a baby is exciting, and that’s infectious – everyone wants a part of it.
However, when it comes to unwanted personal questions there’s a lot to be said for good old reserve. But if you do find yourself the reluctant centre of attention, Anita Naik, author of Lazy Girl’s Guide to A Blissful Pregnancy, has a few tips on how to cope.
What to do when people…
- Ask a question you’re sick of answering. Anita says: Humour is your best friend here as they don’t know you’ve been asked 50 times already that day. When asked if you know the sex you could say "yes, a boy or a girl."
- Ask personal questions like "was it planned?" Anita says: This is just rude. The best response is no response. Or pretend your mobile has buzzed and walk off.
- Ask about your choice of name. Anita says: Say you don’t know and divert them away from giving their unwanted opinion.
- Touch without asking. Anita says: Honesty is the best tactic here. Say NO THANK YOU loudly and firmly (good practice for when you’re a mum).
- Remark on how big/small you are. Anita says: It's annoying, as it alludes to you either being a fat pig or someone with an eating disorder. Turn it on it’s head and say ‘thanks, you’re looking equally good!