THere is something so undeniable about the “pregnancy glow” a woman experiences when she is pregnant. Her skin is so radiant and her hair so shiny that it's almost impossible not to notice. But what if the pregnancy glow isn't a glow at all, but just a poorly lit photograph, or the way a dress fits her body, or an underlying health problem?
Recently, Hailey Bieber and Vanessa Hudgens were forced to deny speculation that they are pregnant. For the 26-year-old model, this wasn't the first time she had to shut down pregnancy rumors. Hailey, who has been married to Justin Bieber since 2018, said GQ Hype in October that it's “disheartening” when her fans constantly ask her if she's pregnant — especially since she's previously been open about having an ovarian cyst.
As for Vanessa, she gave a blunt response when asked by fans if she was expecting her first child with fiancé Cole Tucker. O Musical school alum shared a video from her bachelorette party in Aspen, Colorado — in which she was seen dressed in oversized sweatshirts, fur jackets, button-down shirts and a loose-fitting dress — and quickly received a barrage of invasive comments.
“Why does she look pregnant to me or like she’s trying to hide a baby bump?” one viewer questioned, while another asked: “Are we pregnant?” Vanessa simply responded, alongside an eye-rolling emoji: “I’m not pregnant so you guys can stop.”
It seems like social media has encouraged us to ask about our favorite celebrities' personal medical information. Of course, it's the nature of platforms like Instagram and TikTok to make famous figures seem more relatable to us and for us to be privy to what goes on in their everyday lives. In turn, we develop a connection with our ever-growing list of “Followers,” sometimes forming something known as parasocial relationships – when one party becomes emotionally attached to a person, while the other party probably doesn't even know the other. exist.
While these one-sided and essentially imaginary relationships we have with celebrities existed long before the invention of apps like Twitter, the rise of social media has blurred the lines of how we interact with celebrities — including asking whether or not they are pregnant.
Dr Jolene Brighten is a certified naturopathic endocrinologist specializing in integrative hormonal care for women. “What everyone needs to recognize, whether you're friends or not, is that when you make those kinds of assumptions and you don't really know what's going on in someone's life, there's this judgment and the shame that can come from that. . You're making assumptions about someone's body and you don't know the full story,” said Dr. The Independent. “On the one hand, they may be struggling with chronic illnesses. On the other hand, it could be that they are unable to get pregnant on their own for some reason, or perhaps what you are speculating is that a pregnancy is actually a miscarriage. I think this is really important to always take a step back and consider that we don’t know the full story.”
In November last year, Hailey Bieber revealed that she had an ovarian cyst “the size of an apple” and shared a photo of her belly with a noticeable bulge — although “it's not a baby bump,” she clarified. “I have an ovarian cyst the size of an apple,” she wrote. “I don’t have endometriosis or PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome] But I’ve had an ovarian cyst a few times and it’s never fun.”
“It’s painful and sore and makes me feel sick, bloated, crampy and emotional. Anyway…I'm sure a lot of you can relate and understand a lot,” Hailey said. “We got this.”
The Rhode Beauty founder began sparking pregnancy rumors as early as 2020 when she shouted Us weekly for allegedly planning to publish a story about her expecting a baby. “So please stop writing fake stories from your 'sources' and focus on what's important aka the election,” she wrote on her Instagram Story at the time.
Then in April 2022, Online Radar reported that Hailey's “flowing dress” at the Grammys left fans “convinced” that she was expecting a child. In the comments, she closed the complaint, writing: “I'm not pregnant, leave me alone.”
Last July, fans once again believed a baby Bieber was on the way when a leaked photo of Hailey surfaced showing the model wearing a baring black top and holding her baby bump. Speaking with GQ HypeShe called the pregnancy speculation “disheartening” but maintained that “when the day comes” that she is pregnant, “you, like the internet, will be the last to know.”
Last month, Kourtney Kardashian welcomed her fourth child — her first with husband Travis Barker. For nearly two years, she's spoken about her fertility journey on The Kardashians. In season one, the 44-year-old Poosh founder described how the medication she received as part of her in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment put her “literally into menopause.”
Although she didn't have to, the reality TV star decided to be open with her fans about her IVF treatment. Perhaps that's why it was so upsetting when she was forced to respond to shameful comments on her Instagram in September last year. “Wait a minute, I didn’t realize she’s pregnant,” one user commented under a photo of Kourtney posing in lingerie. “No, but you're missing a woman's body,” she replied.
Just five months later, Kourtney once again dismissed pregnancy speculation, sharing the effects IVF treatment had on her body. In the since-deleted Instagram slideshow, she wore an all-yellow cropped cardigan and high-waisted pants as she posed with the latest product from her vitamin brand Lemme. When an Instagram user asked, “Is she pregnant,” in the comments section, Kourtney explained that her recent changes in appearance were simply “aftereffects.” [sic] of in vitro fertilization.”
“I only acknowledge this comment because I think it's important to know how IVF affects women's bodies and it's not talked about much,” she added. “Also, do we still ask women if they are pregnant?”
According to Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkinsa board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with 1.1 million followers on TikTok who spoke with The Independent, one in seven couples is affected by infertility problems. However, it is mainly women who bear the burden of infertility in a relationship. In fact, women struggling with infertility have demonstrated higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to men.
“Infertility itself is a risk factor for depression and adverse mood symptoms,” Dr. Brighten said. “When people start making these speculations, when people start making comments about their reproductive health, it becomes something that can be so overwhelming that people's moods can actually worsen.”
Not only does constant pregnancy speculation negatively impact the mental health of those undergoing fertility treatment, but these invasive questions are sure to make anyone question their own body image or life choices – even those who are not undergoing IVF. .
“There is a lot of social pressure on what women do with their bodies, in every way, and pregnancy is definitely one of them,” Dr. Brighten said. “Some things that might go through their minds include, 'Am I the age where I should be thinking about having kids? Should I be doing this? Is this what the fans want from me? Is this what I want for my life?'”
“It puts them in a situation where they start to question something they’ve never questioned before,” she added.
An increasing number of women in the United States are deciding not to have children, choosing not to have children voluntarily. In April this year, a to study from Michigan State University found that one in five adults in the state, or about 1.7 million people, did not want to have children. Some critics have professed that childless adults will regret their decision not to have children later in life. But a later study, which analyzed the reasons why people decide being childfree, found that older, childless adults were no more likely to express feelings of regret than those who are parents.
“People generally get pregnant much later in life,” Dr. Perkins said. “People are waiting and exploring their careers and professions first and actually choosing to get pregnant much later.”
For Hailey, who recently celebrated her five-year wedding anniversary with her pop star husband, some people could be marking their calendars for the baby Bieber announcement any day now. But it's important to realize how much women's lives are burdened by social expectations, milestones and arbitrary deadlines.
“When you get to the five-year mark, now people are like, 'Oh, you might be pregnant!' or 'There might be something wrong with you,'” Dr. Brighten said. “The problem with being a celebrity is that people forget your humanity. They forget that you are not just an object because you were used as an object. I think that's a really important thing for people to reflect on, is that these are real humans having real human experiences.”
The world has made many strides in recent years toward body positivity and acceptance, which is why it's so surprising to celebrities and medical professionals alike that constant pregnancy speculation is still so persistent online. For Dr. Perkins, this counts as a sign that we have a long way to go to accept ourselves exactly as we are. “I still have hope that we will get there,” she said. “But we’re not there yet.”