Commenting on women’s bodies is a no-go. Most people understand that. Then pregnancy happens, and everyone, regardless of gender, throws caution to the wind. Your belly is soooo big! Are you having twins? You could stop a bus with that bump!!!!!!! Gee, thanks.
The plain truth is that you’re never going to be able to react to these comments like you’d like to, which is to punt the commenter into the next century, where pregnant women’s bodies are silently lauded and respected. You can teach people how to treat you, though. Here are a few ways to respond to pregnancy body talk. Politely. Sort of.
“You’re so big!”
This comment is sometimes stated outright or framed like the example above—like your superhuman belly can now accomplish amazing feats of strength. (It can, but in an entirely human and wonderful way.) Cooly respond, You know, I’m actually coming in at exactly the right measurement for where I am in my pregnancy. Did you know they measure from the top of your belly to the bottom to make sure you’re a healthy size?
Or chuckle at their comment (even if it’s abhorrent) and say: I get that a lot! But would you mind not commenting on my size? I’d rather think of my pregnancy in terms of health rather than size.
“You’re so small!”
What a strange thing to say to a pregnant woman. Even if it’s meant as a compliment, it’s still odd: Does being small during pregnancy mean you’re doing something right? Is it a good thing that you, a pregnant woman, can be carried around Polly Pocket–style? Do you...thank them? Anyway, try responding like this: My doctor says my weight is right on target for my pregnancy. or I’m happy with my progress so far. Could you refrain from commenting on my size?
You can also go the humor route: Yes, at my baby shower, I became the first pregnant woman ever to play that toilet paper belly-size game with a single sheet of two-ply.
“You must be having a girl/boy.”
Where you carry your weight really doesn’t determine whether you’re having a boy or a girl, but people love to play the expert when it comes to belly distribution.
Respond this way: I don’t subscribe to those old superstitions, but I am very excited to find out what we’re having! It’ll be a long-awaited surprise. Or, Who really knows whether those things are true? I’m just happy I’m healthy, and I hope the baby is too.
“Oh, you must be having twins.”
See the size examples above, or say something to redirect the conversation entirely with a bit of humor: I’m not, but if I were, I’d love to have celebrity twins like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen or the Property Brothers. Do you think I should try for that next time?
And if you are (or more!): I am! I hope they’re all healthy. That’s what matters.
One final thought
There are dozens of size or weight scenarios that people can wedge themselves into during your pregnancy. We’re not going to cover all of them. And you can flat out ignore their statements if that makes you feel more comfortable; however, you should know that it’s perfectly acceptable to 1) tell someone, even a stranger or a boss, that they’ve crossed a line and 2) to expect your request for body privacy to be respected. You can do it simply by saying: Please don’t comment on my size. and changing the subject. If they react negatively, know that their reaction is more about them (likely their embarrassment) than it is about you.
At work, comments about pregnancy can be considered a form of gender discrimination. If someone’s comments make you feel uncomfortable, ask them to stop. Write down what they said, including the date and time. If it doesn’t stop, talk to that person’s boss or to HR. Although we can’t totally control social norms outside the office, women do have explicit rights in the workplace.