Pregnant women are dealing with a lot. From hormonal mood shifts to changing body images, pregnancy makes women act a little crazy sometimes. It doesn't help when passers-by worsen the situation by saying something dumb. Now in my third pregnancy, I've figured out some common triggers that make me want to lash out at innocent strangers.

If you want to escape an encounter with this pregnant woman intact, here are some things to avoid.

Do. Not. Touch

Unless you put it there, don't touch it. Touching a stranger's belly, pregnant or not, is rude, even when you ask first. I know that some people are inexplicably drawn toward babies, but at least wait until they've emerged. If you reach out and pet a stranger, you deserve whatever you get.

Avoid talking about my physique

There is no good thing you can say about a pregnant woman's weight. If you tell me I look small and cute, I'm going to flip out, call my obstetrician and demand testing for failure to thrive or some other malady which my baby probably does not have. If, however, you tell me I look huge, I will cry. I will also refer to myself as a beached whale for the rest of the day. How about having that on your conscience?

On a related note, don't predict my due date unless you are my doctor. I pity the poor person who tells me I look like I'm about to pop when I'm only six months along. It won't be a pretty sight. If you absolutely must comment on my appearance, there is only one acceptable thing to say. Repeat after me: "You look radiant!"

Don't ask lose-lose questions

If you ask me if I'm excited about the pregnancy, I know full well there is only one acceptable answer. It doesn't matter if I'm sick as a dog and miserable, I will smile at you and nod like a bobble head. Then I will resent you for making me lie. Yes, I'm excited about the baby, but that doesn't mean I have to love every second of being pregnant.

Also, if you ask me what gender I prefer, I'm going to feel like a jerk for answering. If I answer I want a girl and end up with a boy, I'm going to feel horrible until the end of time. Just don't go there.

Last but certainly not least, do not, under any circumstances, ask if I planned the pregnancy. Unless you're my mother or my best friend since first grade, it is none of your business. The only thing I want to hear coming from your mouth is a hearty, "Congratulations!"

Offer unsolicited advice. I dare you!

My choices about birthing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping and circumcision are just that: my choices. Same thing goes for whether I will work after baby arrives. Since I have to raise him, I get to make the big decisions. Know that I'm weighing all my options thoroughly and trust in my ability to raise my child responsibly.

Let me eat whatever I want

If I tell you I want a pickle, onion and ice cream sandwich on sourdough bread, hand me the sandwich and walk away slowly. I do not want to hear, "Should you be eating that?" When in doubt, throw some chocolate at me and smile. It really is the safest course of action.

Pregnant women are not an innately scary bunch. Although we sometimes resemble easily agitated bears, we prefer acting civil and excited about our soon-to-be-new arrival. Use some common sense and think before you speak. Follow these simple rules and you'll walk away unscathed.

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