3 Awful Examples of Pregnancy Policing

January 27th 2016

Laura Donovan

Pregnancy can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but those who have experienced it also know that it comes with some major downsides: morning sickness, weight gain, feet swelling and being subject to other people's unsolicited thoughts about anything baby-related. Many women complain about facing those judgmental opinions and have begun to refer to meddlers as "the pregnancy police."

Here are a few annoying examples of pregnancy policing that must be stopped.

1. Judging pregnant women for drinking coffee

Coffee Cup

Earlier this week, writer Alexandra Smith published a piece in The Sydney Morning Herald about being denied a cup of joe by a male barista because of her visibly pregnant belly. The man was probably considering the well-known recommendation of avoiding excessive caffeine consumption during pregnancy, but many doctors say one cup coffee is OK to have while pregnant. Nevertheless, this man still stepped out of line by trying to tell Smith what she could and couldn't consume.

"Pregnancy, it seems, is viewed as an out-of-body experience," she wrote. "Comments that would never be uttered to a non-pregnant woman, let alone a man, suddenly become totally acceptable to a woman sporting a baby bump."

Related: Being Pregnant in Prison is a Nightmare

She added that she has heard of plenty of pregnant women getting shamed for wanting alcohol but never coffee. When she disclosed the situation to a group of friends, and sadly learned that pregnancy policing goes beyond coffee and booze.

"One friend reported that she was denied a soft-serve ice cream while pregnant; another said she was refused service when she tried to buy unpasteurized cheese in a British supermarket," she wrote. "Just like our bodies, our decisions also become fair game. So, tired and hungry, I walked—or some would say waddled—off from the cafe with my cup of 'coffee' disappointed and still cranky."

Stephanie Peatling, who also works at The Sydney Morning Herald, tweeted about Smith's experience when it happened:

2. Food shaming

Late October, commenters blasted pregnant model Chrissy Teigen on social media for posting photo of Cap'n Crunch mixed in with Fruity Pebbles, as some of them disagreed with her choice to eat dyed food while carrying a child.


A photo posted by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

Teigen, who has been open about her fertility struggles, criticized her haters for giving "unsolicited baby advice" to her. She also released a series of sarcastic tweets saying she was going to do a bunch of things that are unsafe for pregnant women:

3. Going anywhere near alcohol


The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report stating "no amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy." It's thought that drinking during a pregnancy can pose risks to an unborn child's health, but many pregnant women are shamed for merely being in the vicinity of alcohol.

In 2010, Lisen Stromberg wrote in a BlogHer piece that a man snatched her wine glass after she gave a toast at a wedding because she was pregnant.

"After I sat down, one of the men at our table took away my wine glass and said, 'I know you know your baby doesn’t need this,'" she wrote. "Now, it should be noted, I hadn’t taken a sip from the glass, but that was not the point. This guy was just another in a long line of well-meaning men (and the occasional woman) who felt compelled to tell me what to eat, drink, and generally do while I was pregnant. Funny thing is, my doctor had actually advised me (off the record) to have the occasional glass of red wine."

Related: The Cost of Childbirth Varies Widely in U.S.

She went on to state that the second guessing from others doesn't end with alcohol.

"We are bombarded with frightening information on the risks of our decisions. We are told that if we eat soft cheese, sushi, deli meats, if we drink alcohol or unpasteurized fruit juices, if we dye our hair or get a pedicure, our child’s future will be compromised by low IQ, behavioral problems, and late-in-life heart disease, diabetes and so on."

Though she was no longer pregnant at the time, actress Hilary Duff faced a similar dilemma several years ago. Right after giving birth to her son Luca, Duff was photographed with a cigarette in hand, and many questioned her parenting as a result. She swiftly took to Twitter to explain that she was holding the cigarette for a friend, but she shouldn't have had to explain herself to a bunch of strangers: