When someone you know is facing an unplanned pregnancy, you may not know how to offer her the support she needs — not to mention what is the right and wrong thing to say. An unexpected pregnancy is a sensitive and challenging situation, and any woman who finds herself here will already be under a great deal of stress.

If you have a friend or family member considering adoption as a solution to her unplanned pregnancy, you may have your own personal opinions on her choice. However, remember exactly that — it is her choice, and your only responsibility is to support her, whatever she chooses.

It can be easy to say something misguided in this complicated situation. Therefore, find a list of a few things not to say — and some suggestions for what to say instead — below.

What Not to Say to a Woman Considering Adoption

1. Calling her a “birth mother”

Even if a woman is committed to her adoption plan, she is not considered a birth mother until after she places her child for adoption. Until then, she always has the right to change her mind, which is a critically important right for any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy — and one she should always be aware of. Instead of this term, use more appropriate ones like “prospective birth mother” or “pregnant woman considering adoption.”

2. “Why are you giving up your baby?”

There are several things wrong with this statement. First, choosing to place a child for adoption isn’t “giving up” a baby; it’s choosing to give that baby the opportunities in life that his or her birth mother can’t provide. Adoption is one of the most beautiful choices a woman can make.

Secondly, it’s never anyone else’s business why a prospective birth mother is considering adoption. If your friend or family member chooses to share her reasons for adoption with you, that’s her right, but you should never pry into this difficult situation unless you are invited. When a prospective birth mother is ready, she will share her reasons with you; if she doesn’t, remember that it is not a reflection on you or your relationship to her.

3. “Do you think you’ll change your mind?”

Coming to the decision of adoption is a difficult one, and it’s normal for prospective birth mothers to have reservations up until they sign the consent paperwork. Of course they have thought about the possibility of changing their mind; it’s only natural. What a prospective birth mother doesn’t need is someone stoking those questions or fears, especially if she is comfortable with the choice she has already made.

4. “I could never place my baby for adoption/get an abortion/raise a child right now.”

If you know someone who is unexpectedly pregnant, you may have opinions about the unplanned pregnancy path they choose — but you need to keep them to yourself. It’s very easy to make assumptions about what you would do in this woman’s situation but, unless you are actually facing an unplanned pregnancy, you have no idea what will actually be the right choice for you.

Every person’s situation is different, and you need to respect that. Whatever unplanned pregnancy option your friend or family member chooses, trust that she is doing it for the right reasons for her. She doesn’t need your personal musings and anecdotes to help her make that decision.

5. “A pregnancy is a blessing. Think of how many people would love to be in your shoes!”

Contrary to public belief, not everyone embraces a pregnancy — and it’s not always a “blessing” to everyone. There is a reason that your friend or family member is deciding between her unplanned pregnancy options; it’s because she previously had no desire to be pregnant at this time in her life.

Telling her what she should feel about her pregnancy is not your right, and it can make her feel like her own feelings are wrong — when they are always completely valid for her situation.

What to Say Instead

Just because you are afraid of saying the wrong thing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything at all to your friend or family member who is facing an unplanned pregnancy.  Your support for her as she goes through this difficult point in her life will mean a great deal.

Here are a few compassionate statements that you can consider:

1. “I’m here for you, whatever choice you make” (but only if you mean it).

When a woman faces an unplanned pregnancy, she will likely receive opinions and comments from all kinds of people in her life, pointing her to one unplanned pregnancy option or another. It can be an overwhelming position to be in.

Instead of offering advice on which solution she should pick, make it clear that you respect her decision, no matter what it ends up being — but only say this if you are confident you can follow through. Whatever choice a pregnant woman makes, she should not feel ashamed or guilty for doing so. Emphasize your support for her, and make sure you are there to see your statement through.

2. “What can I do to help?”

Rather than push a prospective birth mother by offering what you can do for her (and involving yourself in her personal decision), leave this option completely open to her. She may want something as simple as a night in with a movie and a nice dinner, or she may need assistance with childcare for her other children while she attends her necessary appointments. An unplanned pregnancy is a very personal journey, so your friend or family member will only involve you as much as she’s comfortable doing.

This simple question can go a long way in showing your respect and care for your friend or family member facing an unplanned pregnancy.

3. “I respect you and your strength. I know you will make the best choice for yourself.”

This is perhaps one of the best things you can say to a prospective birth mother. She is making an incredibly difficult decision to pursue adoption, but she may still have some reservations. While you shouldn’t presume to give her advice or tell her what she should do, expressing your confidence in her will, in turn, help her feel more confidence in herself.

In fact, no matter what you decide to say to your friend or family member who is considering adoption, make sure it expresses this confidence and support that you have for her, no matter what path she ends up taking for herself.