People give advice because they want to help. They think they have some information that you need to hear. It doesn’t matter if they are educated about pregnancy or birth. Everyone has an opinion or advice and a lot of people feel compelled to share it with you. Even when you do not ask for it. People who give unsolicited advice are coming from a good place. It would be great if you could just speak your mind and tell people that you are not interested in their opinions. We also have relationships we want to uphold and feelings we do not want to hurt. This is the challenge. Get tips and tactics to deal with unsolicited advice when you are pregnant.
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“Hi Vanessa, thank you for your podcast! It has been my go-to for all my pregnancy info. I have a question on how to deal with unsolicited advice. So many people have been giving me advice about my pregnancy and birth. It is driving me crazy. I know they are coming from a good place but I haven’t found a way to get people to stop giving me advice when I am not asking for it. Is this normal? Did this happen to you and how did you deal with it? I don’t want to be rude but I wish people would stop giving me their opinions. Any tips would be much appreciated.” – Kathy
Kathy, thank you so much for your email. I can promise you that you are not the only pregnant person that feels this way.
This is such a common issue and I get emails frequently from expecting parents who are dealing with some form of this. It could be your co-worker telling you to do your Kegels. A stranger telling you that you should plan to deliver naturally. A friend telling you every detail of her negative birth story and her advice on what you should do differently. The list is never-ending. Everyone has an opinion, a comment, or advice for you as soon as they find out you are pregnant. If by normal, you mean common, then yes. If by normal you want to know if this is what people are supposed to do, then no, it is not normal.
I completely get that this is driving you crazy. I think that is the natural response. Obviously, you listen to this podcast so you are well educated about a lot of things pregnancy and birth-related. If you have a question or need advice you will probably look for answers yourself or ask someone.
People give advice because they want to help. They think they have some information that you need to hear. You are right, people are coming from a good place. It would be great if you could just speak your mind and tell people that you are not interested in their advice or opinions, but we also have relationships we want to uphold and feelings we do not want to hurt. This is the challenge.
The ideal solution would be to avoid this. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to avoid getting unsolicited advice. If it is coming from someone that you can avoid, that one checker at the grocery store, by all means go in a different line. This is easy if it is someone you do not see regularly, and more challenging if it is someone who is frequently in your life.
If you are trying to be respectful of someone’s feelings you cannot just ignore them. If you want to be polite, you can start by acknowledging their comments.
Let’s say your sister tells you that you should not eat a turkey sandwich because deli meats are off-limits when you are pregnant. You know that deli meats have the potential to be contaminated with listeria and this risk goes away if you heat the meat to 165 degrees. Even so, you are comfortable eating the turkey sandwich. You can tell your sister, thanks for looking out for me, but I’m confident I’m okay eating this sandwich and I’m going to enjoy it. You acknowledged her and told her, in a nice way, that you were going to do it anyway. If she just won’t drop it you may hit a point where you need to tell her that enough is enough and ask that she drops the lecture about the food you are eating.
Another tactic that may be useful is to explain your choices. The majority of people who give pregnancy or birth advice are basing their opinions and comments on a headline they read or something someone told them. Most people are not educated about pregnancy and birth. You obviously are, because you read the articles on this website. Let’s say that you are planning for a home birth, and a friend tells you that they really think you should consider having a baby in a hospital because home births are not safe and you are putting yourself and your baby at risk.
You can respond by acknowledging that you know she is looking out for you and that you have done a lot of research and home births can be safe. You can go on to explain that you have an excellent midwife and your pregnancy is low-risk, and you are an excellent candidate for a home birth. Plus, you have a backup plan in the event you need to transfer to the hospital.
Often when people are confronted with ideas outside of what they may consider the norm, they are resistant to them. For a lot of people, the perception of home birth is that it is not safe. The truth is, that for someone who is low risk and who prepares, this is a valid and safe option. Perhaps by going into more detail about why you have chosen home birth you can put your friend’s mind at ease and put this conservation to bed once and for all.
Ask for Evidence
If someone is giving you unsolicited advice it may be helpful to ask them questions about their sources of information. Let’s say your sister tells you that you should start your baby on solids at 4 months. A good response to that could be, where did you get that recommendation? Because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you wait until 6 months. It is helpful when you have information from solid sources. Especially when people are basing their advice off of hearsay or faulty resources. Often being able to state that you are educated about something, or cite a source like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or the American Academy of Pediatrics will get people to stop talking.
Change the Subject
You are going to come across people who have different opinions and they are going to share their thoughts. You may just need to deflect the conversation and change the subject if you want to avoid talking about it. One way to do this tactfully is by saying, “Thanks for your input, I am ready for a break from talking about my pregnancy, what are your plans this weekend?” People love to talk about themselves. If you can ask them a question related to something about them that can steer the conversation in another direction. It will likely be obvious that you are trying to change the subject, but they will forget about that when the conversation moves on.
Agree to Disagree
You can easily find yourself in a situation where you may just need to agree to disagree. Even when you are really educated about this stuff. Some people will not want to hear a counter-argument, no matter how much evidence you have to back up your stance. If you get in an argument with your brother about placenta encapsulation, you plan to do it and he thinks it is gross, you can always agree to disagree. Try, “That is fine that you think it is gross, I think it is a good idea and I am doing it. Let’s agree to disagree and talk about something else.”
Be Direct and Honest
Depending on your relationship to the person giving you unsolicited advice and the particulars of the conversation you may find the best tactic is to be direct and honest. Don’t feel bad about telling someone that you do not want to have a conversation with them. That you would prefer they keep their comments to themselves. That you are confident in your decisions and if you want their advice you will ask for it. I know we often want to be nice and not hurt anyone’s feelings. If your point is not getting across and you need to be more direct, or more honest, about not wanting to hear their advice, please speak up.
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