Pregnancy and Birth Etiquette in the Internet Age

Originally posted on MotherWise

Using social media to share our experiences with pregnancy and birth is a beautiful thing; through sharing our journeys, we build communities of informed mothers who feel empowered and supported.  Yet with the information age comes a peculiar sense of urgency and entitlement towards this instantaneous form of communication.  It seems that, as with pregnancy announcement etiquette, some people may need a refresher regarding how to tactfully and respectfully respond to pregnancy and birth, especially online.  The issues listed here are said with good intent– no one is deliberately trying to annoy pregnant, birthing, and postpartum mothers, but still, many mothers have spoken out about feeling pressured or bothered by such questions and comments, so here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t pester the mother with questions like “Is the baby here yet?!?!” or “OMG you’re still pregnant?!?!”  Due dates are guess dates, not eviction dates.  In a society that regularly and dangerously induces mothers for being “overdue,” even while current evidence shows it’s best to let labor start naturally, the last thing a mother needs is a throng of Facebook friends pressuring her and pointing out how “overdue” she is.  Moms who are on the recieving end of this incessant question should send their friends to
  • Avoid saying things like, “OMG you’re soooooo huge!  Are you having triplets or something?!”unless you know the mother is the type of person to find such comments delightful.  There is an odd notion that a woman’s body suddenly becomes public fodder when she gets pregnant.  Random people feel they are allowed to reach out and touch a pregnant woman’s stomach, and some may feel comfortable making comments about her size.  A general rule is: if you wouldn’t stroke the abdomen of a non-pregnant woman, don’t do it to a pregnant woman.  If you wouldn’t tell a non-pregnant woman how incredibly gigantically enormous she is, don’t say it to a pregnant woman.  Some women have no problem with such comments, but it’s better to err on the side of sensitivity.
  • Don’t demand attention from a laboring or birthing mother.  It is exciting to know that a friend is in labor, but bugging her for updates and info isn’t supporting her, it’s supporting your desire to know details.  Consider saying something like, “I am thinking of you and your family.  You will be meeting your baby soon!” instead of leaving a comment like, “Update?!?!”  I made the mistake of alerting a few friends at the beginning of my labor, which went on to last 40 hours.  During that time, I got so many urgent phone calls that I had to shut my phone off, and when I eventually turned it back on, I had several messages wondering, “Where are you?!?  It’s been hours!”  Yes, I know it’s been hours.  I was having a baby :)
  • Birth doesn’t always go according to plan.  If you know a mother planned for a natural hospital birth or a homebirth and ended up with something different, don’t press her for details.  Some mothers may be trying to accept and embrace their unintended birth experience, so expressing sorrow and pity might not be the right way to support her.  Conversely, some mothers may be devastated due to a traumatic birth experience, so something like, “At least you have a healthy baby!” is the last thing they want to hear.

Have you experienced any of these comments before?  What would you add to the etiquette list?




5 thoughts on “Pregnancy and Birth Etiquette in the Internet Age”

  1. Glad you mentioned the comments about size, but I’d like to remind everyone never to ask “Is this your first?” The comments made about expecting twins are infinitely more hurtful when your last pregnancy was multiples, who didn’t survive. Also, I know many people who carried their baby to term despite a fatal diagnosis. Simply put, pregnancy just isn’t a happy time for everyone. It can be a fearful, anxious time that doesn’t always result in a positive outcome. Don’t worry, if the mom is excited, she’ll tell you about the pregnancy herself.

  2. I would add that if you’re “special enough” to hear the details about the little one via phone or text by a family member, don’t go and spoil the announcement via social media. Let the parents have that privilege. It should be celebrated that they’re taking time to get to know each other as a family, and they should have the joy of sharing what details they choose when they choose. I had this happen to me, and now encourage all my clients if they’re concerned about such things to turn their facebook wall off until they’re ready to turn it back on. This moment is about the family, let them have it.

  3. I am not pregnant and have never been pregnant. I look forward to God blessing me with children and I can’t wait to be a mommy, but that time hasn’t come for me yet and me and my husband are waiting for Gods timing which is the best timing for us to have children. I honestly would prefer if women would stop randomly asking me if I am pregnant. All I have to say is that I haven’t been feeling well and then their next initial response is “are you pregnant”. I feel as though if a women wants you to know that she is pregnant she will tell you. I personally want to share those first few months of pregnancy with only my God and my husband. There are certain secrets that women get to share with only God alone and pregnancy is one of them. I can’t wait to even just have a few moments of being the only one who knows about this little miracle I have inside of my body even before revealing it to my husband. I look forward to that secret being revealed by God (or by God through my OBGYN) to me first and growing closer to God and then to my husband through this piece of information that nobody else knows about but us. Pregnancy is a great celebration for all but it is also a very private, personal, sacred and intimate occasion for the baby and parents involved. I don’t want to be pressured by anyone to admit that I am pregnant when I am just not quite ready to reveal that information. I feel as though unless you are absolutely certain that the pregnant or potentially pregnant female is ok with you asking, or opens up about the topic on her own you should respect her privacy and allow her to make the decision without any pressure on when to reveal the GREAT BIG news! And then we can all be excited and celebrate new baby.

  4. I just wanted to add a comment about your third point (not bugging mom when she’s in labor!) – this worked really well for me and I thought I should share. Early on when things started up there were a few special people I wanted to give the heads up to so I sent texts to those people. I was lucky enough to have my mom and my sister attend my birth, along with my husband and our midwives, so later, as labor got more intense and demanded all of my attention, my sister quietly took over cell phone duty. She put it on silent and continued to periodically update those important folks over the next day and a half until baby arrived. I never even knew she was doing it, but when I found out after I was thrilled that my nearest and dearest were kept in the loop and that I didn’t have to hear a cell phone beeping at me. So, just wanted to throw that out there for anyone who would like to keep a few special people informed and who have a mother/sister/best friend sitting with them through labor. It worked perfectly for us!

  5. Am I “sure yet this month?” that I’m not pregnant. Yep, yep totally not your business yet, thanks!
    And once you ask for her due date, you don’t need to ask her again every time you see her. You may have forgotten, but she already answered that question three times in the last hour, sh’es quite done answering it, thank you. I swear I’m printing out businesscards next time so I don’t have to repeat myself every five minutes….

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