Mothers to be deserve our respect

Having your first baby is simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking. Pregnancy is such a new and different experience that no amount of research and preparation can truly prepare you. It’s a great joy, but it can also be one of the most difficult and uncertain times in a woman’s life.

The last thing that any pregnant women needs is unwelcome comments from others.

For some reason, we seem to think that when a woman is pregnant we all have the right to pass judgment on their progress – or even worse, to treat their bodies as community property and start touching their tummy.

Pregnant women hear these comments on a regular basis from friends, relatives, neighbours or just from strangers in the street. Often these people think that they are being helpful. They’re not.

“Gosh, you’ve gotten big – having twins are you?”

“Oh, you’re very small for six months – you should be eating more!”

“You’ll find it hard to lose all that weight once you’ve had the baby, dear”.

These are all comments that have been directed at my patients over the years – and some are even worse than these. How would you feel if a stranger in a department store started to make disparaging comments about your weight?

Most people are well meaning. They don’t realise that their uninvited commentary can be distressing to a first-time mother-to-be who is trying to do the best possible job she can for her unborn child. Pregnant women need our encouragement and support on the wonderful but difficult journey that they are undertaking.

As I explain to my patients, the only opinions that truly matter are hers and her partners.

So, if you’re having a baby soon, how should you deal with unsolicited comments like these? The polite way is to explain that “My doctor says I’m just right”. I’m sure there are some less than polite ways to convey your displeasure as well – but we won’t go into those in this column! Perhaps we should have some T-shirts printed up for patients to wear during their pregnancies with the motto “I’m not too big. I’m not too small. Hands off”

So, next time you meet a pregnant women, here are a few suggestions: Firstly, don’t touch their ‘baby bump’. Secondly, take a moment to consider the impact of your words before you open your mouth. Remember that this time is one of the most important periods of their life and that a few words of support, encouragement and affirmation can go a long way.