“Are you pregnant?” It’s a question most women have heard before, be it after sudden weight gain, a night of no drinking, or after being in a relationship for what’s deemed the appropriate amount of time. And it’s an especially common question for celebrities to hear. Women in the spotlight can hardly post a photo to Instagram without getting at least one comment that reads, “You pregnant, sis?”
Take Kourtney Kardashian, for example, who has been asked this more times than we can count. In March 2020, after posting a series of swimsuit photos, fans began speculating she was pregnant. “This is me when I have a few extra pounds on, and I actually love it,” she responded to one comment. “I have given birth three amazing times and this is the shape of my body.” Since she started dating Travis Barker in December 2020, the frequency of these comments has only increased.
Or, Rihanna, who was honored as national hero by her native country Barbados in November 2021. It wasn’t the accolade that dominated the online conversation that followed; rather, it was a slight belly bulge showing through her silk dress that caught everyone’s attention. “Y’all breed me every year dammit lol,” the singer responded to a fan in her DMs. Of course, it turns out that Rihanna was pregnant at the time, but that makes the question no less intrusive.
Chrissy Teigen is another celebrity who constantly seems to be the target of pregnancy speculation — and now she is begging fans to stop. Earlier this month, the model took to Instagram to announce that she has started another round of IVF treatments, the first after losing her son Jack, who was stillborn at 20 weeks due to a pregnancy complication. “I wanted to let you guys know I’m balls deep in another IVF cycle to save as many eggos as I possibly can and hopefully make some strong, healthy embryos,” she wrote.
Teigen then made a plea to her followers. “I humbly beg you to stop asking if I’m pregnant because while I know it’s said with excited, good intentions, it just kind of sucks to hear because I am the opposite of pregnant! But also like please stop asking people, anyone, if they’re pregnant,” she continued in the caption. “I said this in the comments and got yelled at because the internet is wild but I’d rather be the one to tell you and not some poor woman who will look you in the eyes through tears and that’s how you finally learn.”
And here’s the thing: She is 100% right. It is long past time we stopped asking women if they are pregnant, or when they are getting pregnant for that matter. Not only is this presumptuous, but it could also be triggering for someone who is struggling with issues unseen. “It may be appropriate between certain loved ones and in certain relationships, but in general, asking if someone is pregnant should not be a casual or flippant part of small talk,” says Dr. Lora Shahine, MD, a double board-certified reproductive endocrinologist, Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Washington, and host of the podcast Baby or Bust.
So, before you go to ask someone if they are pregnant, consider this:
12% of American women have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
“Infertility, trying to conceive, and fertility treatments are a roller coaster ride of physical and emotional challenges,” Dr. Shahine explains. “The hurdles and stops and starts along the way can challenge mental health, and people with infertility report high levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.” She notes that 1 in 8 couples are estimated to experience infertility, adding that most people have to try multiple times or switch treatment options to see success.
“When all you can think about is getting pregnant and having a baby, having someone ask you if you are pregnant can be a trigger, a reminder of all the emotions you are feeling: frustration, anger, sadness, and more. It can feel like a punch to the gut and leave you reeling in reminders for quite a while,” Dr. Shahine says.
The same goes for grief. According to the Mayo Clinic, somewhere between 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and it is estimated that stillbirth (the loss of a baby after 20 weeks, before or during delivery) affects 1 in 160 births in the U.S. Asking someone who has experienced such tragedy can be a devastating reminder of their loss. “They told me it would get easier but yeah, that hasn’t started yet,” Teigen wrote alongside heartbreaking photos of her hospital stay shortly after her son’s death.
Over 90% of women are unhappy with their bodies.
Women’s bodies are subject to enough scrutiny, and you never know what someone is going through, so why risk fueling the fire with pregnancy assumptions? “Commenting on someone else’s body for any reason can be triggering for not only patients struggling to build their family, but anyone with their own body image issues or disordered eating or exercise issues,” says Dr. Shahine.
It’s estimated that 91 percent of women are dissatisfied with the appearance of their bodies, and plenty of research shows that body dissatisfaction is a predictor for the development of an eating disorder. So while a comment may seem harmless, it can further fuel someone’s disorder or cause a relapse. Remember that intent does not erase impact. “It’s always best to avoid commenting on others bodies or image altogether,” Dr. Shahine says.
Most women choose to delay their pregnancy announcement
This should go without saying, but someone else’s pregnancy is their business and theirs alone until they are ready to share it with you. Most women wait until 12 weeks (or later) to reveal their pregnancy with friends and family, which is when the risk of miscarriage goes way down. Others prefer to wait until they receive the results of genetic screening, during which parents-to-be receive updates on potential chromosomal abnormalities.
Other reasons women choose to hold off on sharing the news often include work accommodations, general anxieties, and not wanting the sudden torpedo of attention. Or, perhaps they simply want time to savor the excitement with their partner before blasting the news on social media or sharing it with anyone who asks. It’s important that no matter what the reason, you respect someone’s privacy in this moment and allow them to share the news on their own terms.
Some women feel ambivalent about their pregnancy
According to reporting by the New York Times, as many as one-fifth of women who become pregnant are not sure whether they want a baby. Furthermore, a group of researchers in 2019 found that 55 percent of their survey sample described feelings of ambivalence in response to questions about their pregnancy intentions, response to confirmation of a new pregnancy, or decision making about the pregnancy.
All this to say that not everyone experiences immediate excitement upon learning they are pregnant, and in some cases, mixed or conflicting feelings can last throughout someone’s entire pregnancy. “When you’re aware that others will react with excitement and they’ll expect the same from you, it can be easier to avoid that pressure rather than pretend or force an emotion that you don’t have,” Marisa Long, a licensed clinical and reproductive health psychologist in Southern California, told Today’s Parent.
The bottom line: “It may seem like a simple question or showing interest in someone’s life, but we never know what anyone else is dealing with, so it’s best to leave this question out of casual conversations and small talk,” Dr. Shahine says.