There’s nothing quite like a pregnant pause... and there’s nothing as awkward as the pregnant pause you get when you congratulate a woman on her impending arrival – when she’s not actually pregnant.
It’s the ultimate foot-in-mouth faux pas .
Once the words are out, there’s no back-pedalling from the fact you’ve basically called her fat.
BBC Breakfast presenter Steph McGovern was on the receiving end of this gaffe when she was discussing the Carillion collapse and viewers tweeted her mistakenly congratulating her on her “pregnancy”.
Top kudos to Steph for reacting with humour and the quickest and cleverest comeback I’ve ever heard to such a social blunder.
She tweeted back: “For those who are congratulating me on my ‘pregnancy, I am not ‘with child’, I am ‘with pot belly.’
No tears, no histrionics – just a hilarious wit complete with an emoji of a pig.
While I love Steph’s brilliant handling of the pregnancy assumption, few women can honestly say they wouldn’t be offended if someone presumed they were pregnant.
It’s hardly a self-esteem or confidence booster and even if you are able to laugh it off, it’s likely to leave a slight cloud on your day.
Even if someone is overweight, it doesn’t feel good when a stranger tells them they look pregnant and those who aren’t big can find themselves mistakenly thought pregnant because of what they’re wearing or how they are standing.
It happened to me a few years ago when we were checking in for a flight back home after a holiday. Stood at the check-in desk, I stretched and rubbed my back which was aching after hauling my hand luggage.
The woman at the check-in desk looked at me then gestured at my tummy before asking: “Baby?” Feeling stunned and a bit hurt, I quickly said: “No!” while she turned her attention back to her paperwork.
Admittedly, I was wearing a floaty top with frills which might be favoured by those wanting to hide their baby bump – and I’m sure the fortnight of all-inclusive food and drink hadn’t done my waistline any good.
But being virtually told to my face (and my tummy) that I looked fat enough to be pregnant certainly brought a momentary downer to the end of the holiday.
And it’s no coincidence that I’ve never worn that top since then. Some women would probably have burned it.
One friend who was training as a midwife went to an aquanatal class with a pool of pregnant women and was full of dismay when one of the mums-to-be asked her when her baby was due.
The truth is us women are sensitive about our bodies and it’s deflating to be told we look inflated.
Being the one making the pregnancy blunder can be equally as distressing.
One former colleague was left red-faced when he bumped into a friend’s wife in town who he knew was expecting and he asked her when the baby was due before jovially adding: “It looks like any day now!”
Her terse reply was to tell him she’d already had the baby and he was at home with his dad. Ouch!
My advice: if you spot a woman with a bulge or a baggy top, never presume she is pregnant.
The only safe scenarios for assuming pregnancy are if you see the baby crowning or see a women lying on a hospital bed screaming for an epidural.