BURLINGTON, Vermont—From unsolicited baby bump touches to having your big news scooped on Facebook, modern pregnancy has an etiquette all its own. To keep the pregnant glow, consider the following:
Sharing the News
There are few pieces of news as exciting to share as pregnancy. Whether it is a first or fifth, a surprise or long hoped for, it is joyful news.
The choice about who to tell and when will vary from family to family. Though some couples share the news as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed, it's smart to wait until the first trimester is well in hand. Most people tell immediate family first, followed by close friends.
If you're one of the first to know, this conversation may be accompanied by a request to hold the information close until the couple has the chance to tell others personally.
Some women will make an announcement at a family event to make sure their closest loved ones hear about it directly from them.
Facebook has added an extra twist: Until the couple is ready for anyone to know about a pregnancy, they might restrict their Facebook wall to prevent an over-eager well wisher from spilling the beans. Even if a Facebook wall is active, be sure the news is truly public knowledge before posting congratulations.
If you deduce someone is expecting, either from an extra glow or a declined glass of wine, show respect by allowing her to tell you in her own time. When she breaks the news, it's okay to share the insight you had then.
Some women enjoy the occasional belly rub or pat from close friends and family and see it as part of sharing the joy of expecting a baby. Others don't. Never pat a pregnant woman's belly without first asking or being invited to do so.
If someone asks to pat your bump and you would rather they didn't, simply say so-it's not rude to tell them no.
"Thanks for asking, but I'd rather you not." If they reach out without asking, say, "I know it's tempting, but please don't touch." You can add action to words and step back, fold your hands over your belly, or reach out to gently stop their touch.
And almost all pregnant women agree that a belly pat from a complete stranger is entirely inappropriate. It's not okay to walk up to a non-pregnant stranger and touch their belly, and the same goes for a woman who is pregnant.
If you have this impulse, curb it, and instead smile and offer congratulations and ask when she is due-this is the right way to show your excitement over a stranger's pregnancy.
Sometimes excitement is misplaced rather than mis-expressed. Be quite sure a woman is pregnant before assuming and asking when she is due. If she says, "I'm not pregnant," there is no graceful exit beyond, "I beg your pardon." Then drop the subject-there is nothing else that can be said to make it better.
Successful Seat Giving
It's a lovely gesture (and sometimes the law) to offer your seat on the bus or subway to someone in need. Yet this is a gesture that too often fails to happen for pregnant women.
Granted, some might be just fine standing. But others would appreciate the seat, and offering yours-whether you are a man or a woman-is the right thing to do.
Though many people will say yes when offered that chance, others want to say yes but don't want to inconvenience someone who was there first. No matter who you might be offering your seat to or why, the best way to get them to accept is to first stand up, then offer. It's much easier to accept an empty seat than a filled one.
And if no one offers but you need a seat, simply ask. "Pardon me, but would you mind letting me sit? I'd really appreciate it."
All but the lousiest of people will hop right up for a pregnant woman; and if they don't, you can be sure the person next to them will.
Anna Post is the spokeswoman for The Emily Post Institute, a U.S.-based organization founded in 1946 that addresses societal concerns including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility. The opinions expressed are her own. The Emily Post Institute's website is http://www.emilypost.com.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)