Stop asking women when they’re going to have a baby

Rakhi Beekrum

Rakhi Beekrum

Published Mar 30, 2024


There are some questions that are never acceptable to ask someone, unless you have a close, trusting relationship with them. One of these is asking someone when they’re having a baby – or why they have not as yet.

Just because we have grown up in a society that has normalised getting married by a certain age, and then having children, it does not mean that this is the only life path. While one may think that they’re asking a simple, harmless question, there ought to be consideration that the person you’re asking may be struggling emotionally.

Many couples who struggle with fertility are already experiencing emotional challenges. What one may think is a harmless question can easily trigger someone who desperately wants a child, but is struggling to conceive.

The process of fertility treatment can take a toll on a woman’s body, her emotions and her relationship. Failed IVFs can evoke significant emotional reactions and impact on the marriage. Couples save up to invest in fertility treatment, and in the event that it fails, they may experience grief, loss of hope and feelings of inadequacy.

I often see women who present with mental health consequences of failed fertility treatment. Despite this, many are trying their best to show up in the world, go to work and fulfil other responsibilities. It can take just one question to trigger the grief and disappointment.

Others have experienced miscarriages that they are silently grieving. Sadly, many don’t speak openly about it, leaving them without the necessary support. On the other hand, some may long to be mothers, but this may not be possible due to medical conditions.

Some who may have wished to have children, may have met their life partners too late in life for it to be a possibility, due to the risk that comes with age.

A population that struggles with judgement are those who are child-free by choice. There are several reasons that couples may decide to not have children.

Some of the reasons that couples commonly reveal in therapy include not wanting to over-populate the earth (especially with our limited resources), realising that they would not want to bring a child into this troubled world, their own childhood trauma which leads to anxiety about ruining a child’s life, not having a desire to procreate or having goals in life that do not include children.

Do not make the assumption that such people are selfish or are “living their best lives”, because sometimes the decision to not have children actually comes from a selfless place. There are unpleasant assumptions often made to those who are child-free, for example, that they have unlimited available time.

For some, it’s a choice and for others, it’s not. Either way, asking someone about it is intrusive. A woman’s worth is not dependent on her ability or desire to have children. Asking someone when they will have a child (or another one) or why they have not as yet, implies that it is something that is expected of them.

It’s interesting to note how many men are ever asked the same questions.

The belief that one cannot know love until they feel love for their own child is a very limited view of love. There are some that are able to love and care for children that are not their own biologically. There are some that love their pets unconditionally.

So the next time you find yourself in a setting where you see someone recently married or married for a while with no children, consider that there are many other conversations that you can have that may not be intrusive, triggering or imposing.

Rakhi Beekrum is a counselling psychologist in Durban North with more than 14 years’ experience in individual and couples’ therapy. Her expert advice has been featured in print and digital media, on radio and television. She uses her social media platforms to spread mental health awareness and to reduce the stigma.