'If you want unsolicited advice, get pregnant'

By Dhruti Shah
BBC News

Image source, Jaclene Paolucci
Image caption,
Jaclene Paolucci, pictured with her husband, John, says she does not know why complete strangers feel they have the right to advise her on her pregnancy

Six months into her pregnancy, Jaclene Paolucci has had enough of strangers offering unsolicited advice and thinking it's fine to touch her without permission.

The last straw was a stranger interrupting her as she ordered her regular latte at a Starbucks in New York - to suggest she switched to decaf.

Jaclene, 36, took to Twitter to tell her more than 3,000 followers what had happened and that her response - telling the woman: "I'm not pregnant," - had led to a spluttered apology.

And she was shocked by how many people could relate to her experience.

So far, her tweet has received nearly 5,000 responses, 78,000 retweets and close to 700,000 "likes".

Image source, @Diamond_Jax
Image caption,
Jaclene Paolucci's tweet resonated with hundreds of thousands of people

"I've discovered that if you want unsolicited advice, then you should get pregnant," Jaclene told BBC News.

"It feels like the moment you do get pregnant, then you lose your body's autonomy.

"People start touching you and everybody has an opinion on how you should act, what you should wear - everything.

"The only people who should be able to do that should be you and your doctor."

Jaclene said she limited herself to one coffee a day and had taken medical advice about it.

She said: "What if I hadn't been pregnant?

"And there are many postpartum women who find it hard to get rid of their bellies.

"Comments like this can be hurtful so unless someone is having a baby in front of you, you shouldn't get involved.

Image source, Jaclene Paolucci
Image caption,
Jaclene is tired of people having a say about her pregnancy

She added: "People feel entitled and your body becomes a community body.

"We're in an exciting but scary time and there's so much information out there which can often be contradictory. However, I trust my body and I will make the best decisions for it.

"What I did find interesting, though, was after I tweeted, many of those who disagreed with my stance were men."

Image source, Dr Tara Chettiar
Image caption,
Dr Tara Chettiar says even with her expertise, she was not immune to unsolicited advice during her two pregnancies

Among the thousands of women who responded is Dr Tara Chettiar, of Kansas City, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology.

"I was in the hospital doing my patient rounds about six years ago, I was heavily pregnant and I was wearing my scrubs and white coat," she said.

"As I stopped to get a coffee, one staff member told me that I shouldn't be drinking coffee at all.

"I was astounded that anyone would say that - let alone to an expert in the field.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"I had to pause and say that a small amount of caffeine had been shown to be safe outside of the first trimester.

"In fact, it's fine in the first trimester, although I was visibly beyond that point."

"I have so many patients who have told me about their experiences around unsolicited advice and as someone who has gone through this myself twice now, I loved seeing how Jaclene had called it out."

She added: "A lot of pregnant women find they are constantly being told what to do by others but let's be clear: pregnancy is not a disability."

The advice is largely well intentioned, says Dr Chettiar, because it's about an issue everyone feels they can connect with.

"Family, babies are so much at the heart of the human experience. So many people want to become part of the journey. It's the same reason that people also feel they can ask, 'When will you have children?'

"Because in their minds, this is something that connects us all. But in reality, those questions and 'advice' make women feel separate, different, and as though something is wrong with them."

@ethereumgirl also responded to the thread, highlighting the constant touching she had experienced during her pregnancies.

Asked why she had wanted to share her experiences on Twitter, she told BBC News: "I think what pulled me in is this unwanted expectation when you become pregnant that you belong to 'the collective society', that some others feel more comfortable responding to you in ways that would be otherwise socially unacceptable."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

And this is something Jaclene clearly understood. In one her tweets, she wrote about the constant touching: "It is totally invasive. It's strange enough you have a foreign being inside of you using you as a punching bag and playroom, then everyone else is touching you from the outside."