6 Things We Need To Stop Shaming Pregnant People For

by Kimberly Zapata
Originally Published: 
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Pregnancy is very hard. From nausea and exhaustion to aches, pains, and general discomfort, it can be a difficult nine (or 10!) months. But the most daunting part of pregnancy may not have anything to do with your body — or baby. In fact, the most daunting part of pregnancy may be the unsolicited comments, criticism, and advice: i.e., we shame pregnant people for everything, from what they eat and wear, to how much they do (or don’t) exercise.

Everyone has an opinion. Doctors, loved ones, and strangers regularly give their input and advice. And celebrities are no exception. In fact, due to their public persona, many celebrities face near-constant criticism when they are pregnant. Case in point? Hilary Duff was recently slammed for dyeing her hair. (Yes, really.) But the pregnancy policing needs to stop, publicly and privately. The snark, comments, and criticism need to end, and it’s time we shut this shame game down.

Here are six things we need to stop criticizing pregnant people for.

Exercising — Or Not Exercising

Many pregnant people exercise. I did. I was a distance runner when I conceived my oldest — a marathoner (in training) when I conceived my youngest — and I didn’t stop running when the at-home pregnancy tests came back positive or when my OBGYN confirmed I was carrying a child. Instead, I worked with my doctors to create a workout routine. I ran, safely and securely, for nine months. But that didn’t keep the unsolicited commenters quiet. I was criticized constantly. I was told I would hurt myself or my baby, which is (in most cases) untrue.

“Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and do not overdo it,” an article on WebMD explains. “The safest and most productive activities are swimming, brisk walking, indoor stationary cycling, step or elliptical machines, and low-impact aerobics.” However, there are numerous activities you can engage in — if you want to.

That said, not all pregnant people feel up to exercising. For some, it is unsafe. For others, it is uncomfortable. And for some, it’s just not on their radar. They don’t want to exercise — and that’s okay. Do what is right for you, your body, your mind, and your baby.

Eating Or Drinking The “Wrong” Things

While there are definitely some foods and beverages pregnant people should avoid — alcohol, for example, is a serious no-go — most pregnant people know what they should and should not consume. After all, many have a prenatal team, one which advises them and informs them on a regular basis. Rules also change. When I was pregnant with my oldest, for example, pepperoni pizza was okay, but when I conceived my youngest, deli meats were off the table. If you’re thinking of remarking on someone’s food or beverage choice, just don’t. I promise you they’ve got their bases covered.

Gaining Weight

Johner Images/Getty

Getty Images/Johner RF

If I had a dollar for every time someone remarked on my pregnant body, I would be a very wealthy woman. Well, at the very least, I’d be able to buy myself a new phone or some fancy fucking jewelry. But I didn’t receive any money. All I received was unsolicited comments and criticism about my appearance, and it sucked. “You’re only 18 weeks?! You look like you are about to pop. Are you carrying twins?”

Don’t ask someone if they are pregnant. Don’t ask someone if they are carrying multiples and/or twins, and don’t make comments about another person’s body, period. It’s seriously the least you can do.

Dyeing Their Hair

You knew I would come back to this. I mean, I had to come back to this. It is an issue near and dear to this hair color enthusiast’s heart. (I have donned most shades on the drugstore hair care aisle — and in the rainbow — and when my second was born, I had pink hair. Bold, bright, candy-colored locks.) But the real reason I’m coming back to this is because it is (still) one of the most misunderstood aspects of pregnancy. But yes, pregnant people can safely dye their hair.

“Most research indicates the chemicals found in both semi-permanent and permanent dyes are not highly toxic and are safe to use during pregnancy,” American Pregnancy writes. “In addition, only small amounts of hair dye may be absorbed by the skin, leaving little that would be able to reach the fetus. As such, this small amount is not considered harmful to the fetus.” Leave Hilary Duff’s light blue locks alone.

Working (Or Not Working) While Pregnant

Another damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario is working while pregnant. Why? Well, if I’m being honest here, I don’t know. I can’t understand why individuals would want to shame someone for working (or not working) but it happens. A lot. Hell, I was told I shouldn’t be commuting in my third trimester. But I did because I wanted to. I did because I needed to. Financially, my family was dependent on my income. And because it was fulfilling. So instead of telling pregnant people what they should or shouldn’t do, let’s ask them what they want to do — and support them in whatever way we can.

Feeling Ambivalent, Angry, Scared Or Depressed

Pregnancy is exciting. It is thrilling and full of promise and potential. Many pregnant people are bursting with emotion, feeling, and joy. But not every pregnancy emotion is a happy one. Some people are ambivalent. They feel doubtful and hesitant. Pregnancy makes them unsettled and unsure. Some are angry. From the physical changes to the emotional ones, the weight of pregnancy can be unnerving and unsettling. It can make individuals frustrated, resentful, and annoyed. And some pregnant people will experience depression, clinical or otherwise. It is normal and common. Research suggests that 7%-20% of individuals will experience depression during pregnancy, and it’s time we stop shaming pregnant people for feeling these things. Pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For many, it isn’t the greatest time of our lives — and that’s okay.

Anyone who’s ever been pregnant has likely had a run-in with the “pregnancy police” – someone who insists they’re doing something the wrong way, or neglecting to do something they should. But unless that person is carrying, birthing, and paying for the baby all by themselves (news flash: they aren’t), their opinions are completely irrelevant.

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