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When someone tells you that they (or their partner) are pregnant, is it rude or impolite to ask if the pregnancy was planned?

I imagine it depends on how close one is to the couple or one of the (future) parents, but there might be cultural differences too. Surely this is also better to ask in private rather than in public.

P.S. I am referring to "normal" cases of "stable" partners, and not to more cumbersome situations like teenage pregnancy (admitting that in many cases the latter can be a perfectly voluntary pregnancy too).

closed as primarily opinion-based by Ælis, avazula, sphennings, ElizB, Negotiate Nov 16 '18 at 1:51

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    What is the region/culture you have in mind? Why would you ask this? (not an answer, just wild guess) I imagine it would be rude unless you're talking to really close friends. – NVZ Aug 21 '17 at 10:15
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    Well, Western Hemisphere for a start, but this happened to me with a couple from Asia. – luchonacho Aug 21 '17 at 10:19
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    @Agent_L If this is in the US, then it would be very fair to assume that a teenage pregnancy is accidental. For 18yr old women, 83% of pregnancies are unplanned, with similar rates for other teen years. It just may not be courteous. – Dent7777 Aug 21 '17 at 16:06
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    Not only rude to ask, imho, it's rude to want to know, unless you are in their 'inner circle' in which you'd know anyway. Ask how happy the person/couple is about the pregnancy. You'll likely be able to gather how planned it was from that. – mcalex Aug 22 '17 at 7:52
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    Why do you want to know? – Caius Jard Aug 22 '17 at 19:48

12 Answers 12

103

Bluntly, most people will see it as very rude.

Even if it's not your intention, it's as if you were asking if that pregnancy was rather the result of an informed choice following a measured reflection or their failing to use birth control and then trying to make a mistake pass as a success.

If they want you to know if it was planned or not, they will tell you. What should solely matter to you is that they want that child, or else they would have had an abortion and you would never have heard of it.

  • 3
    @luchonacho - still questionable. What good comes from asking such a question? – user2674 Aug 21 '17 at 13:36
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    The part of the answer about abortion is completely dependant on country - there's several countries around where abortion is illegal, and not everyone can afford to cross borders and/or pay privately to do so. The rudeness also depends on the closeness of friendship, and openness of communication. – Rycochet Aug 21 '17 at 13:53
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    @luchonacho - You are essentially asking the couple to define what their objective was when they had sex. Most people consider their sexual lives private, and, thus you need a good reason to intrude on such privacy as it is obviously none of your business. If you lack a good reason, then you will come across as a rude, nosy person, with a good chance of them viewing you negatively. If you don't mind being viewed negatively, then you are correct, nothing bad will come of it. – user2674 Aug 21 '17 at 14:38
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    @ksjohn, I do not think there is anything more to say. Either the OP gets it or doesn't at this point. But, good idea nonetheless. – user2674 Aug 21 '17 at 14:43
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    @Rycochet Not just country, but also religion. – Brian McCutchon Aug 22 '17 at 3:34
2

I think the problem, in this case, is not the question but the relationship you have with the subject of the question and the goal (why the question is asked).

For me, I married and my wife got pregnant young and twice we got a son unplanned. Since the norm is that you get kids when you are 30+ in our country (The Netherlands) it can feel as like I have failed my life and it is something I should be very self-aware and unsure about.

You asking the question to a young couple, could be just as rude as asking to an overweight person:

Did you plan to get that fat?

This, if asked to a complete stranger, is very rude. This, asked to a good friend, is very daring and a test of his trust to you, it might deepen your relationship.

Just be sure with which reason you ask this. Do you ask this because you want to be there for this person you want to love him/her and help him/her. Or are you simply interested so that you can make your own judgement of this person?

If ever you ask this question ask it out of love not out of self-gain. (In this case you wouldn't care as much as if the question was rude)

30

It could definitely be seen as rude, I think it is. At the very least it's incredibly intrusive. It seems reminiscent of just asking them "are you going to keep it?" If you're close enough friends to share such details they would have told you their intentions before now anyway.

But, you know your friends & your relationship best. If you regularly exchange personal questions (especially about relationships & sex) then maybe you're close enough to ask anything, and this question is fine. If you're not that close, and if you're concerned it could be a rude question, then it probably is, don't ask.

  • If it was planned, they'll probably tell you themselves (they've been dreaming about it for so long or something similar).

  • If it was unplanned, I don't see why they'd want to tell you. They could even be embarrassed about it or think you'll look down on them, and you'll just make them feel bad by asking.

If you have some (perhaps unhealthy?) need and absolutely must know, you could use some Sherlock Holmes style Holmesian deduction and ask some common baby questions you'll probably be talking about anyway, like if they've got all the baby stuff they'll need picked out or if they need any (especially if you have old stuff to give them), if they have a baby room planned, if you can plan a baby shower, etc. If they'll be first-time parents, and if they live somewhere without kids or schools/parks then asking if they'll be moving to a kid-friendly neighbourhood (or kid-safe, away from busy roads) is appropriate (children are prohibited in many condominiums so they may be forced to move). If nothing's ready or even considered you'll have your answer while still being helpful and polite.

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    I disagree with the note about 'baby stuff' etc. A lot of things are unnecessary and a separate room is not required until the baby is much older. Actually, it's better if the newborn shares the room with the parents. – user1261710 Aug 21 '17 at 13:16
  • What if the couple, or one of them is a close friend? – luchonacho Aug 21 '17 at 13:30
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    I think @user1261710 provides a good comment. If you are not supposed to know about whether a bay was planned, why to encircle them so that to make them indirectly reveal that information in the first place? That seems even worst than directly asking the question. It's almost like manipulation. – luchonacho Aug 21 '17 at 13:42
  • @user1261710 That's true, not much is needed, but it's commonly done and shouldn't be seen as rude or unusual to ask about baby stuff & what's ready and what isn't. Even asking if they'll move somewhere with "good schools" or they don't need to could show long-term baby plans coming to fruition. – Xen2050 Aug 21 '17 at 13:42
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    @Xen2050: Small talk that's not actually small talk but an attempt to get the other person to disclose something they don't want to is rude and hostile. If you don't get this, you need to stop talking and try to learn something from this SE site. – R.. Aug 22 '17 at 13:25
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It's generally rude, but I'd make exceptions for someone who I am very close to who has talked in depth with me about family planning. But both of these have to be true for the exception to work.

For instance, a sister firmly in the camp of "Two is plenty for us, I can't imagine having more," announces she's pregnant soon after you hear that for the tenth time. In that case, I'd ask "Did you change your minds, or was it a surprise?" Same for someone who had been vociferously against having children. Even in these cases, I would only ask for someone I'm very close to, and who has talked enough about their family planning that I know their (previous) plans.

But for friends or family who had simply not told me what their plans were for having children or had only mentioned them rarely, I'd stick to a "Congratulations!", "Boy or girl?", and "When are you due?"

8

Before asking whether the pregnancy was planned, you might examine what's driving your curiosity and how the answer may affect your relationship.

  • If planned, would you feel betrayed that you didn't know beforehand? Does it make you question the strength/intimacy of your friendship that they didn't tell you as soon as they decided to have a child? Do you feel you should've been consulted?
  • If unplanned, would you accept and support their decision to continue the pregnancy? Will you feel the need to inform them of your opinion (praising or criticising)? Do you think your opinion of them and their relationship will be affected?
  • Does the thought of your friends becoming parents scare you? Are you dreading their changing priorities?

  • Are you genuinely happy and want to be supportive, or are you looking for an opportunity to express your unsolicited opinion on the matter?

There are almost certainly other drivers, but I can't think of a reason to ask if a pregnancy is planned that doesn't come from a place of judgment.

Even to people whose health is threatened by pregnancy, asking if it was planned implies carelessness toward birth control, personal health, and/or the child's future: Why would you risk dying? / How could you be so stupid?

Now, if you cannot suppress this burning need to know...

Congratulations! I am so happy for you! I had no idea you were planning on having a baby - this is wonderful news!

...is the least offensive way I can think of to bring it up. This way, your curiosity is indirectly expressed, and they can choose whether to answer a potentially intrusive question. Regardless of the answer, I wouldn't press the issue.

4

It is rude, even more so than asking about the pregnancy itself. Because you are probing into a person's planning skills, as well as a very private area of their life.

But if you must be this "forward," I would do so in a non-inquiring, non-threatening way with a compliment: "How nice for you."

That might just elicit a response like, "it was totally unexpected," or "it's quite a pain."

3

The question is a bit personal and can be seen as invasive, so it can be rude, depending on how close you are to the person. I would avoid asking unless you are quite comfortable with the person. There is a slight workaround if you really want to know, and that is to beat around the bush.

You can do this through engaging them in small talk or asking questions indirectly, i.e.

  • "How is the baby treating you guys?" OR "How has life been" (more indirect)
  • "Has it been difficult since the baby has come into your life?"
  • "How have you been doing lately?"

You can then gauge them based on their answers and continue the small talk, or they just may tell you with their answers too.

  • "It has been okay, since the pregnancy was unplanned."
  • "We're doing great, we've been planning this for a while!"
  • "We're doing okay."

So they may tell you or not, if they keep it simple and uninterested then it is probably not in your interest to continue engaging them, while if they seem comfortable talking about it, feel free if you think it is appropriate.

5

You keep asking "What if one of them is a close friend?" for every answer that tells you it is inappropriate. See it this way: If you are close enough with a person that the question, if their pregnancy was planned, is acceptable to them, then they would have let you in already. I have had friends being very open to me about trying to conceive or planning a child generally in the near future even before getting pregnant. I have had others that introduced the news with "We were hoping for this for months now!" and then it is also clear.

In any other case, I would not have seen it appropriate for me (or anybody else) to ask. It is for them to decide if they want me to know. This is not an information that should be important to you as a mere friend at all. Important is if they are happy with it right now. If they planned it yesterday is yesterday's news. The only thing you can "gain" from this information is judgment. They do not need to be judged. If they decided to keep it and tell everybody about it as a happy news, that is the decision which is important from now on.

6

It's rude because you're deliberately creating a yes/no question about something that might make them feel vulnerable, embarrassed, etc. Rudeness isn't about whether they actually get embarrassed. Rather, it's about whether you're doing your part to avoid needless embarrassment.

If you want to explore this topic without forcing a yes/no question that might be embarrassing, you could instead ask,

How did you feel when you got the news?

  • Another similar out is "Where you trying for very long?" This allows for a naturally open ended question for those who have been working for this and a naturally closed ended question for those who haven't. – Myles Aug 22 '17 at 15:40
6

There is a whole list of things you should never ask, even close friends.

  • Was it planned?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • When are you having kids?
  • Are you having more?
  • Are you done?

Here are versions you can safely ask or say.

  • Are you excited? What great news! Congratulations!
  • You look GREAT! (Never ever comment that someone looks pregnant or on how big they are if you know they are pregnant. Some do not mind, some are very hurt) And if they are pregnant and not yet sharing, there is a reason. Respect that. If they want to tell you, they will, when they are ready.
  • How have you been lately? (Do not ask people if they intend to have kids. If you know them well, eventually they will say it if they do. You can feel free to talk about wanting, or not wanting, kids yourself though).
  • How is your child(ren)? You can ask how someone's kids are doing. Don't ask if they are having more. Maybe they are, maybe they won't. Maybe they want to but their partner doesn't & it's a hard topic. Either way, it really doesn't matter. If & when they do have more, I am sure they will let you know, until then, it really doesn't matter anyway.
  • This is same as above.

Really, saying you are close to a person in no way means you can cross over boundaries that are reasonable. Asking someone about their reproduction is really overly personal even for siblings and parents for many. Asking questions that literally pertain to someone's sex life needs to be taken as asking about their sex life.

Here is a perfect example. If a close friend is pregnant & asks me about healing after birth as it relates to your sex life, then that I understand. She is asking me to inform her of something that does or will directly impact her. She may also ask after the baby about how to feel sexy again, how do mom's find time, etc and again, also makes sense, she is seeking information as it pertains to an issue she is having. Randomly asking me about my sex life with my spouse because she is curious, even if a close friend, is overstepping. People still do that, but it's rude and not something you should seek to do.

If you are good friends and the couple didn't plan on this, eventually likely the friend will say so. In the end though, planned or not makes no difference as the baby is on the way, so focus on that. If you are a good friend you can ask if there is any way you can help or something you might do, such as help set up a baby crib or paint a room or move furniture or whatever.

  • In the UK at least, it is not uncommon, for close friends to ask others if they plan to have any more. I would not be offended if a friend asked me and it is easy to say something like "Noooo, one is plenty for me" or "Maybe one day" if I don't want to be specific about it. One note though, a potential employer cannot ask that in an interview (legislation forbids it) – matt freake Aug 24 '17 at 12:15
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  • Few parents want their children to know they weren't intended, so it's a question where often only one answer is acceptable. Thus if it wasn't planned you're forcing them to lie, which is not nice.
  • If it was planned you might accidentally imply that was bad planning, which is quite offensive.

Either way the question is pointless because most normal people won't tell you "We didn't plan for it but then we used that new brand of condoms, and they ripped. We did consider an abortion but before we could agree with each other 3 months had passed, so now we're happily anticipating the birth of our little baby boy. We just hope the payoff we get from the lawsuit against the condom company is enough to pay for college."

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    concise followed by colorful. well done sir! – james turner Aug 22 '17 at 18:27
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    +1 for the first paragraph. The safest way to ensure that a child does not know or feel they were the result of a birth control failure is to never tell anyone, no matter how close. – Patricia Shanahan Aug 24 '17 at 14:06
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You begin by stating "her partner is pregnant," which indicates a lesbian, or possibly bi-couple. If they are lesbians, then by virtue of human biology, no pregnancy could be unplanned, except in extraordinary circumstances (rape, cheating with a man), generally rendering the question moot. By asking, you would have to be assuming those extraordinary circumstances to be at least a possibility, and thus, your question would be extremely rude.

In the case of a lesbian or bi-couple, I suppose the next question would be,

"Is it rude to ask the couple who the father is?"

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    I am sorry. My attempt to remain as neutral as possible came out wrong. I updated the question. I see the case of by-couples is probably not pertinent. Heterosexual couples are probably the only appropriate case here. – luchonacho Aug 21 '17 at 15:37
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    This assumption is pretty wrong. I often refer to my female partner as "my partner". Being in our 40's means that she's not a "girl", so that the boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't sound right. You can't assume that if anyone uses a gender-neutral word to indicate a relationship is LGBT, you have to follow the context. – Snow Aug 23 '17 at 6:10
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    He wasn't assuming because of the word "partner" but because of the word "her" in front of it ;) – Mark Aug 23 '17 at 9:01

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