Take time to answer her questions thoughtfully.

How to Explain Pregnancy to a Young Child

by Ashley Garay

While you are pregnant with your second child, you may find yourself focusing mostly on how your first child will adjust to having a new baby in the house. Take the time to consider how your pregnancy may be confusing or stressful for your first child. Some young children have been around other pregnant women, such as aunts or family friends, and may understand that a pregnancy leads to a baby, but others may need some explanation along the way. Likewise, some children are more curious than others about just how Mom became pregnant in the first place and how the baby will be born.

Choose an appropriate time to tell your child about your pregnancy. Some parents can't wait to share the news with their child, while some prefer to wait until there is less risk of miscarriage or until Mom is showing, or even until an ultrasound has confirmed the new baby's sex. There is no official "right" time. Keep in mind that telling your child right away could make for a long wait for the new baby, but it could also provide a long transition period for a child who is nervous about becoming a sibling. Since the concept of time doesn't mean much to younger kids, tell your child the season that your baby is expected to arrive so she knows when to start getting excited.

Use visual aids to explain how the baby is growing. A young child may have a hard time imagining how a baby, who seems small even at birth, starts out even smaller. There are many books for young children with photos or illustrations of a growing fetus. You can also compare the current size of the baby to a piece of fruit to give your child a physical comparison. Some children wonder about how the baby gets food and water while being inside of you and are very interested in the concept of the umbilical cord.

Answer questions honestly and simply. If your child wants to know how the baby got into your belly, don't be shy about telling her the truth. You don't need to launch into a full-fledged birds-and-bees talk just yet, but an age-appropriate explanation about sex is perfectly appropriate. Adults often read their own significance into kids' questions regarding sex and reproduction. While a child may simply be wondering where babies come from, parents sometimes panic and feel the need to explain the why and how as well. Just respond that a baby grows inside Mommy and see if there are any further questions before you stress about it.

Use appropriate terminology for basic human anatomy. "Seed" may be easier to understand to a young child than "sperm" or "semen," but using simple body part names keeps the conversation more matter-of-fact. Your young child probably already knows the word "penis" or "vagina" to describe her own body, so explaining some of the functions of these parts, such as sex and childbirth, should not be overly alarming if done in a calm manner and explained as grown-up activities only.

Take your child with you to prenatal appointments, if you feel she is old enough. She may enjoy helping to measure your belly and hear the baby's heartbeat, and most care providers are happy to include your child. This is also a great opportunity for a professional to answer any questions your child may have that you aren't sure how to answer. Likewise, take her to any ultrasounds you may have so she can get a visual sense of how the baby is growing.

Explain childbirth to your young child. Most of your focus should be on the pregnancy itself, as your child sees your belly growing over a matter of months. However, don't be surprised if she asks how the baby is going to get out -- something many first time-moms may wonder as well! Again, keep the explanation as simple and straightforward as you can, explaining that your body works hard to help push the baby from your vagina and that you'll have doctors and nurses or midwives to help you. If you are going to be away from home for a night or more, prepare you child for this by explaining that you and the baby will need to rest a few days before coming home, but assure her that she can come visit.

Items you will need

  • Pregnancy books for children
  • Visual aids, such as fruit, to show size of baby

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images