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Pregnancy etiquette: What not to say to a woman who is expecting

May 27, 2014 at 10:21 AM ET

Moms-to-be know: Expect lots of personal questions and unsolicited advice when you’re expecting.

Women told TODAY they endured all sorts of inquiries during their pregnancies, such as demands to know about their exact weight gain, comments about their breast size, and opinions about whether they should be wearing heels or eating certain foods.

Video: Etiquette expert Thomas Farley joins TODAY to chat about the biggest breaches of pregnancy etiquette, and offer some advice on how women who are expecting can deal with the often awkward situations.

Etiquette expert Thomas Farley, aka Mister Manners, offered a simple rule of thumb to people tempted to press a woman about details of her pregnancy.

“Keep the questions rosy, and not nosy. So supportive, loving, caring,” Farley told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer on Tuesday. “Comments about weight are definitely off the table.”

So are intimate inquiries about whether the pregnancy was planned or whether the woman intends to breastfeed or not, unless you’re very close to the expectant mom, like her sister, Farley advised.

Asking someone if they’re pregnant in the first place can be a land mine, Lauer noted and Farley agreed.

“Unless you’re 1,000 percent sure that this is the case, better safe than sorry,” Farley advised. “The same goes after the woman has given birth. You don’t want to ask her, ‘When are you having the baby?’”

“I’ve had that happen,” Lauer said. “’Four months ago,” was the answer. It’s not good.”

A recent TODAY.com poll named the worst pregnancy etiquette faux pas: 

  • Touching a pregnant woman's belly without permission —44 percent
  • Comments about weight —16 percent 
  • Unsolicited advice — 15 percent 

When people touch a woman's pregnant belly without asking, most just grin and bear it.

So when is it OK to reach out and touch?

“You want to be invited and typically the woman will guide your hand to the belly to put it in the appropriate spot. You want to wait for that invite,” Farley said. “Imagine walking down the street and somebody decides to touch your hair. That doesn’t happen, nobody would think of doing that — same with the belly, even more so.”

On the flip side, pregnant women who invite someone to touch their belly should realize it’s an intimate moment so some people may feel awkward about it, Farley said.

Almost half of respondents in the TODAY.com poll said members of their families were the worst violators when it came to rude pregnancy comments and unsolicited advice, followed by strangers and friends.

When confronted with questions, Farley advised couples to simply stick to their own comfort level as they talk about the pregnancy. So if you want to tell the world about the baby’s gender or name choice, feel free to do it. If you want to keep it a secret, it's perfectly fine to stay mum. People around the couple, in turn, should respect their choice.

“This is a wonderful chapter, obviously, for any woman and her partner. This is something to be enjoyed and embraced, and the family and the friends need to embrace it likewise,” Farley said.

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