Suppoting Women Through Unplanned Pregnancy
What to Say to Someone Who is Unexpectedly Pregnant — and What to Avoid
It can be complicated to know what to say about an unexpected pregnancy when a loved one tells you this news. Wait to congratulate their unplanned pregnancy until you know their emotional state, and recognize these seven things not to say.
Finding out about a loved one’s unplanned pregnancy can be a difficult conversation to have. You may be filled with conflicting emotions — surprise, anger, worry, excitement — and you may not know exactly what the expectant parent is feeling.
You’re probably wondering what to say to someone who is unexpectedly pregnant. After all, saying the wrong thing can quickly cause arguments and even harm relationships.
When it comes to what to say about an unexpected pregnancy, know that there is no “right” answer. How an expectant mother or father looks at an unplanned pregnancy will be determined by their personal situation in life — how ready they are to be a parent, what their unplanned pregnancy options are and more. “One size fits all” does not apply in this situation. Instead, you will need to evaluate their emotional state and then determine what the best response is when they tell you about their unplanned pregnancy.
However, there are some very clear things not to say to someone who is unexpectedly pregnant:
1. “How did this happen?”
Often, this question is not so much a literal question as an expression of disbelief. However, it is none of your business how an unplanned pregnancy occurs.
Obviously, an unplanned pregnancy occurs when either an expectant parent had unprotected sex or their birth control failed. A person does not need to be shamed for their lack of responsibility and made to explain themselves when an unplanned pregnancy occurs. They know exactly why their unplanned pregnancy happened and, likely, they have been chastising themselves for it ever since.
How it happened is not important now. What is important is how the expectant parent will move forward with their lives, instead of dwelling on the past.
2. “I’m so happy for you!/I’m so sorry.”
An unplanned pregnancy is a surprise, and you should not presume to know how an expectant parent feels about this situation. If you choose to congratulate an unplanned pregnancy or lament it, there is a chance you will be met with the opposite opinion from the expectant parent. Not only is this an awkward situation, but it can cause the parent to feel guilty about their emotions — when they always have the right to feel however way they feel.
Rather than deciding to lament or congratulate an unplanned pregnancy when you first hear about it, take a moment to evaluate the parent’s emotional state and present a neutral statement instead, such as “I know this is unexpected. How are you feeling?” This gives you the chance to learn more about their feelings and respond in an appropriate way.
3. “Maybe you should consider…”
If your loved one is facing an unplanned pregnancy, it will always be their decision — and theirs alone — to choose what to do from here. While you may consider offering your opinion, don’t. You are not in your loved one’s shoes, and you don’t know exactly what options are inherently possible and impossible for them.
When you offer your own opinion, or suggest that the expectant parent take a certain route, it can make their decision even more difficult, especially if you try to persuade or shame them into a certain unplanned pregnancy path. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember that this choice is one that only the parent can make — and your opinion, while well-meaning, does not matter.
4. “You can’t be pregnant! I don’t believe it!”
The shock of finding out about an unplanned pregnancy may cause you to express disbelief and suggest that your friend or family member is joking — but acting like their pregnancy is a joke, even if it’s not meant that way, can be extremely hurtful. An unplanned pregnancy is nothing to make light of and, when your loved one has come to you, they are looking for support and understanding, not unintentional ridicule. They have likely spent time overcoming their disbelief before speaking to you, and being reminded of the unexpected nature of their situation is not helpful for productively moving forward.
5. “I knew he/she would be no good for you.”
Whether or not you have an opinion about the expectant parent’s partner, keep it to yourself. People experience unplanned pregnancies in situations ranging from one-night stands to long-term relationships, and automatically assuming that the unplanned pregnancy is the other person’s fault is wrong. It takes two for an unplanned pregnancy to occur.
In addition, not all unplanned pregnancies are initially seen as bad news — so don’t always assume they are. Maybe your loved one is scared but excited about their future with this partner. Saying something along these lines, then, will deflate their feelings.
Again, don’t assume to automatically congratulate an unplanned pregnancy, but don’t assume the worst, either.
6. “Well, what are you going to do?”
If a loved one is approaching you early in their unplanned pregnancy, they may not know yet which path is best for them. Asking them about their plans right after their announcement may seem like the natural thing to do but, with such a sensitive topic, approach this with care. Let your loved one tell you in their own time what their plans are. Bombarding them with questions about their unplanned pregnancy options — especially if they have yet to make a decision — can be overwhelming and won’t make their decision-making process any easier.
7. “Let me know if you need anything.”
While this phrase is not the worst to say in regards to an unplanned pregnancy, it can sometimes be too vague to be helpful. People in crisis situations often have trouble organizing their own thoughts and actions, and being responsible for telling you what they want just puts more pressure on them.
To express your support, try to offer up specific services, like driving them to doctor’s appointments, organizing a baby shower, etc. By suggesting explicit actions, you take the responsibility off of your loved one to make this time in their life a little easier.
What to say to someone who is unexpectedly pregnant is different in every situation. If a friend or family member comes to you with news of this surprise, you will likely know best what to say based on their circumstances and emotional state. Because unplanned pregnancies are such delicate situations, never assume to know your loved one’s feelings; give them the chance to talk it out and offer support in whatever way you can.
If your loved one is struggling with their unplanned pregnancy, consider helping them research their unplanned pregnancy options or reach out to an unplanned pregnancy counselor with them.