What Counts as Mpreg?


I largely ignore award season, because it’s mostly popularity contests. There’s nothing wrong with being popular, but winning often depends more on the author’s social network than literary merit. (And even when there are governing bodies, we can see all kinds of problems, like what’s gone on with the Hugos.)

Two people hold gold-toned trophies of various sizes from either side of the camera frame, against a yellow background. Awards season had me asking, "What counts as mpreg?"
Yeah, yeah, they’re nice to look at. (Anna Shvets / Pexels.com)

We also run into issues and questions when we think about nominations. Specifically, we might want to ask what “counts” and what doesn’t when we think about particular categories or genres.

For me, one of the burning questions to come out of this year’s award season was “What counts as mpreg?”

Defining Mpreg

To ask the question “what counts as mpreg” is to define the boundaries of the category. In all technicality, what “counts” as mpreg should be easy enough to define. It’s a story that includes a dude getting pregnant.

That seems fairly easy, right? And if we leave the definition there, it surely is just that easy.
But we can also go further in asking this question. We might, for example, ask if a story featuring a trans person is mpreg. (I’d argue it counts, but there are plenty of transphobic people who would not agree.)

There are also boundaries or criteria we could establish to define what an mpreg story contains — similar to how romance novels must have an HEA or HEFN. If a story doesn’t have a happy ending for the couple, then it’s not a romance.

What “Counts” as Mpreg?

If we’re looking to define a genre, then establishing criteria for what a story in that genre contains is essential.

For the basic definition, as we said, the story needs to contain a dude getting pregnant or being pregnant. Almost everything else beyond that is gray area.

Does the story need to contain sex scenes? Some people might say yes, absolutely—we need to see the act that results in impregnation. Other readers would absolutely disagree—they’d argue “clean” mpreg is completely possible.

What about a birth scene? This is definitely a YMMV type of criterion. Some people don’t want to read about birth at all. Others find it part of the appeal of the whole mpreg genre. They believe that the longer, the better.

In my own opinion, I prefer to see the pregnancy play out on the page. Plenty of writers simply skip to a fluffy scene with the new baby (or even fast-forward into the future to showcase the family dynamics). I always feel a bit cheated by these stories, where the mpreg scenario is set up, then glossed over.

Some people absolutely prefer getting to the cute kid part of the story (even if it is a kind of level-up epilogue). Others would rather not engage with kids at all (which is fair, because kids are tough to write).

Mpreg Out of Focus

Most mpreg stories I’ve seen put the mpreg scenario front and center. That is, it’s a major part of the plot. Usually, it involves the main characters.

Yet, often, writers tend to set up whole worlds where mpreg is a possibility. That means we don’t necessarily have to focus on the main characters or the main couple. In fact, there could be “background mpreg,” where the mpreg scenario isn’t the main focus (and often features side characters). We could, in theory, have a whole bunch of mpreg going on in one story.

But that brings up another question. Do stories where the mpreg scenario plays out between side characters or background characters “count”? An example of this might be Blake’s Heat of Love series, particularly Alpha Heat. The main couple from the first book in the series are having a baby, but the book’s focus is on an entirely different set of characters. The omega in that relationship eventually becomes pregnant, but the book skips to a “yay baby” epilogue.

This must “count” as an mpreg story to some degree, because mpreg does happen. Yet it’s not the core focus of the story, so the question is whether it appeals to readers the same way Sarah Havan’s work does. (Blake’s work, it might be noted, is usually advertised as omegaverse, rather than mpreg.)

Frameworks But No Follow Through

What about books where the author sets up a world where mpreg is possible, but no mpreg scenario happens? Again, we might look at Blake’s work here. Slow Heat doesn’t feature much mpreg, although it certainly sets up the mechanics for it. I’ve done something similar in older works—the mechanics are all there, but no mpreg occurs on the page.

Yet the possibility exists. In some cases, we might see minor characters play out the mpreg scenario—or confirm that it can and does happen.

Do these stories “count” as mpreg?

Some readers would draw a line in the sand. Blake’s Slow Heat, for example, might not “count” as an mpreg story. It’s omegaverse, and the mechanics for mpreg are all very much there. Yet it isn’t going to appeal to readers who are specifically looking for mpreg to be front and center.

Mpreg “Lite”

Books that push the mpreg scenario off on side characters might still pass muster with many readers, although they represent something of a gray area. The same is true of stories that establish mpreg mechanics and follow the characters up to the point where they conceive, then skip forward in time.

We might call these stories “mpreg lite.” They include mpreg, so they “count” as mpreg stories—but they’re not focused on it the way other stories might be. In turn, these books appeal to a broader audience—including those who might have hang-ups about pregnancy or birth.

These stories still appeal to “core” mpreg readers, those who generally prefer to get all the nitty-gritty details and follow the (main) couple through the mpreg scenario. Sometimes, you just want the fluffy family scenes at the end of the book, without anything in between.

What about Stories of Loss or Infertility?

Mpreg stories tend to be delimited with “dude gets knocked up,” which can pigeonhole writers to some degree. They may feel that, to truly write an mpreg story, they need to include a pregnancy—and a happy ending.

That can preclude stories about infertility, pregnancy loss, or stillbirth. After all, if your main character is infertile, then a pregnancy will not happen—and your story may not be “mpreg” after all, at least in the eyes of some readers.

This can result in things like the “miraculous” pregnancy—a character believes they cannot get pregnant, but lo and behold, they just needed the right dick for it to happen. Infertility is occasionally addressed in other ways. A story might take into account fertility treatments or “solutions” that involve magic or scientific experiment (and tend to highlight the character’s desperation).

A dropper full of green liquid is held over a beaker full of green liquid to the right of the frame, while three test tubes containing various colored liquids--green, yellow, and blue--are held to the left of the frame. Scientific experiment can be part of an mpreg story.
Never mind the pills, which mystery liquid are you drinking? (RF._.studio / Pexels.com)

Loss is rarely touched upon. If a writer does tackle it, it’s usually done as a sort of “flashback” scenario. That is, it’s something that happened to the character in the past. That absolves the writer from showing it on the page, as-it-happens, and risking an unhappy ending or the “miracle” ending. While we all love feel-good stories, they can feel trite.

Thus, while these stories might technically count as mpreg—in the sense that the mechanics are there or even that we follow a main couple on their pregnancy journey—they aren’t mpreg stories in the sense most readers want to engage with the genre.

Genre Criteria and Reader Expectations

The reason this matters is that genre criteria exists for a reason. It’s why romance writers go on rants every February. Some prig inevitably comes up with a list of great “romance novels” that includes a lot of books that do not meet the genre’s standards. It’s why every romance author rolls their eyes when some n00b comes out of nowhere to declare they’re doing something new and edgy—like skipping the HEA in their “romance” novel.

The HEA (or HEFN) ending is a genre criterion. If the ending is not happy? The book is not a romance! Simple as that. Sure, authors put twists on it all the time, but Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. It might be a love story, but the couple ends up dead. Tragedy.

As readers, we want our stories to conform to particular criteria. Otherwise, we’d have a lot of trouble picking out books that we’ll actually like. While there’s still a lot left to chance on whether any given reader finds any given book enjoyable, genre and its requirements help guide our choices. If we know we want to read a romance, then we’ll pick up a romance novel—not a tragedy (unless someone’s mislabeled it). Want cozy vibes? A cozy fantasy might be what you’re looking for. Don’t want to travel to lands far away or planets that are out of this world? You might be looking for a contemporary novel instead.

Thus, while criteria can restrict us, it helps our readers find what they’re looking for. That’s why it’s important for mpreg genre conventions to conform to reader expectations. If readers want to see cute kids and HEAs that mean babies ever after, then most stories should include that. If they don’t, then they might not be mpreg stories—even if the trappings or schematics are all there.

So, what really “counts” as an mpreg book? By and large, it’s up to the readers. At the end of all things, they’re the ones buying books—so what counts and doesn’t count is in their hands.

About the author

By Cherry

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