Hands off my bump: Some workplace etiquette please!

When you’re expecting, awkward moments and uncomfortable questions from friends and strangers are far too common. From unwanted belly rubs to unsolicited medical advice, it can be a shock to be on the receiving end and challenging to know how to respond in the moment. When it happens in the workplace, it can be downright unpleasant. So, how do you react when well-intentioned colleagues overstep your boundaries? And as a colleague to someone who’s expecting, how should you behave?

Being pregnant, it can take a while to adjust to the feeling that your body is no longer truly your own. The constant prodding and poking at your obstetrician appointments, the scans, and multiple blood tests can all be a bit overwhelming! But one thing that can be particularly surprising is when people lunge at your bump for a feel! A lovely nonna at the local market is one thing, but when it happens in the workplace, it can be genuinely shocking.

If you don’t want your body to become public property the moment your belly starts to round out, how do you handle it and politely say “hands off my bump?”

The same goes for unsolicited advice. Pregnant or not, you shouldn’t have to field intrusive questions about your fertility or your baby’s gender. 

Let’s go over some good old-fashioned workplace etiquette for how to treat our colleagues who are expecting.

Hands off my bump
One of the worst things you can do is touch someone’s bump uninvited. It’s not like you’d generally go around touching people in the workplace. And just because there’s a small baby growing inside, doesn’t mean it gives you permission to start. Many pregnant people actually don’t mind if their baby bump is touched; but the point is, you should always ask first, and be totally okay if you receive a “no!”

Don’t comment on my size
It’s a lot to get your head around when your body starts to change and it can make many pregnant people feel quite self-conscious about how they look. So, don’t ask someone who is expecting how much weight they’ve put on or comment that they “look huge”, or “look tiny” for that matter.

Other comments to avoid:

  • Was it planned?
  • How long did it take to get pregnant?
  • Are you having a natural birth or cesarean section?
  • Are you planning to have drugs during the birth?
  • Are you having a boy or a girl?
  • What names have you chosen?

The bottom line is: it’s none of your business. So unless you’re giving a fabulous compliment, it’s best to not comment at all.

No judgment, please
There are many different opinions on what is right or wrong when you’re expecting, so it’s best not to make any judgments. A good example of this is food or alcohol choices. If you’re going out for a team lunch, make sure you don’t raise your eyebrows if your pregnant colleague has a glass of wine or orders a salad with soft cheese. It’s totally up to them to decide what’s right for them and their growing baby.

So, what can you do if you’re expecting?
If you’re expecting, you should be prepared to respond to a few untoward advances from well-meaning colleagues. What can you do if someone lurches at your bump uninvited? You could say “not now, thank you”, or “please don’t touch”, which should shut it down pretty quickly. Likewise, have some polite responses prepared to shoot back when colleagues start offering unsolicited advice or asking questions that overstep your boundaries. Some ideas:

  • “Thank you!” or “No, thank you!”
  • “Yes” or “No”.
  • “Thanks for the tip!”
  • “I’ll keep that in mind.”
  • “I don’t feel comfortable talking about that.”
  • “I’d rather not say.”
  • Nothing. You have the right to walk away without responding.

It goes both ways. Conversely, you shouldn’t grab someone’s hand and place it on your bump without asking.

It’s also good to keep in mind that just because you’re expecting a baby doesn’t mean you should overshare all of the intimate details of your or your partner’s pregnancy. So, please don’t talk endlessly about how many times you got up in the night to pee or that your nipples have changed color. It’s ‘too much information and it’s best that you keep it to yourself!

Written by the Circle In team.

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