10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Touch A Pregnant Woman’s Belly
Even before considering income level, relationship status, or health conditions, pregnancy is rough. It feels like everything is changing, and adjusting to those changes will take some time. Surprisingly, one of the most noticeable changes that comes with pregnancy is the complete disregard for your personal space.
It’s bad enough your “bundle of joy” will completely rearrange your organs and use your bladder as a loveseat. But your outside world will also be under attack by other people’s yucky fingers hoping to cop a feel of your bump.
PSA, folks: keep your hands to yourself. A pregnant belly isn’t license for family, friends and random strangers to go around touching you — and here are 10 reasons why.
1. It’s dehumanizing.
Most people I know ask permission before touching someone’s dog. Unfortunately, that same courtesy isn’t often extended to protruding bellies. Pregnant women are still women — we’re people — and there’s still this little thing called body autonomy. It hasn’t gone anywhere just because we’re pregnant. You wouldn’t walk up to a non-pregnant woman and start rubbing on her belly, right? If you did that at work, you’d likely find yourself taking anti-harassment training. Yet, for some reason, the moment people find out you have a baby on the way, they think touching your belly is fair game.
2. It makes things worse.
Pregnant women, especially those who are in the later stages, already feel hyper-visible. When pregnant, it feels like everything you do or say is a source of scrutiny. The last thing we want is to bring even more attention to ourselves by being the human petting zoo that everyone has to rest their hands on.
3. It’s risky.
If you’ve seen a zombie movie, you know that just because you are asymptomatic doesn’t mean you aren’t a carrier. Same is true for nasty little viruses and infections. Cold and flu seasons have been hitting us hard for the last few years. The last thing you want to do is spread germs to a mom and baby.
4. It could trigger a breakdown.
Automatically reaching out and touching a pregnant person’s belly can lead to unintended mental harm as well. Social anxiety leaves millions of people uncomfortable in public. But certain conditions like haphephobia — an extreme aversion to being touched — might cause a simple graze to lead to a breakdown. Remember, some people are living with physical and mental disabilities. Don’t assume every pregnant person is neurotypical or someone with “normal” cognitive functioning.
5. You’re not touching the baby.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume we’re all adults here. By now, we are all aware that babies are in the uterus — not the belly. Depending on how pregnant someone is, the baby might not even be in the stomach looking area, yet. So what are you feeling for? The plushiness of one’s uterus? The kicks that you have a one in a million chance of catching? Or are you just testing the waters to see how many times you can invade someone’s space before you face long-term consequences?
6. It’s kinda sexist.
When’s the last time you saw someone walk up to an expecting father and rub his ball sack? Sure, a ton of dudes wouldn’t mind, but there’s a high likelihood it would be accompanied by possible legal consequences. So why are women’s bodies public domain? Answer: they’re not.
7. It might go against their beliefs.
As a Black southern woman, I was brought up just a tad superstitious. One of the warnings I remember hearing a lot growing up was about touches from strangers. Something about evil spirits and bad intentions harming the unborn. Do I find that a bit dramatic? Sure. Do I wanna find out the hard way? No, thanks.
Other cultures might have similar beliefs and customs about touches from strangers, as well. Best to keep your hands off.
8. You’re probably not as close to them as you think you are.
Some women aren’t even comfortable with their partners touching their bump — and they were involved in the decision to put them there. Don’t overestimate your importance in any woman’s life, especially one who is pregnant. We are often moody and grumpy. You don’t wanna make that moodiness worse by granting yourself permission to someone else’s body. Even if you were close before, you might not be as close after the lashing you get afterward.
9. It’s not your body.
This one is easy enough — my body my rules. If you want to caress someone slowly touch your own belly fat.
10. Because I said “NO.”
Although all of these reasons can explain why a pregnant woman doesn’t want you to touch her belly, this one is the most important. As a human being, I don’t owe any more in-depth explanation of why I don’t want to be touched by friends, family members, or strangers. Respect personal space and keep your hands to yourself.
Despite all of the above, there is nothing wrong with a pregnant woman who likes others touching their belly. Some find it comforting, enjoy the attention, and don’t mind physical touch. But be sure to allow each woman to make this decision for herself. Don’t assume anyone is comfortable with unsolicited contact.
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Dealing with unwanted belly-touching and intrusive questions when you're pregnant
A near-stranger in a cafe rubbed my tummy and asked about my sex life the other day.
If you think that sounds unbelievable, you're probably not pregnant. Because as I've learnt since developing a baby bump, these kinds of awkward moments aren't uncommon when you're expecting.
From remarks about weight gain ("You're massive! Sure it isn't twins?") to weirdly intimate questions about your fertility ("So did you try every day for the whole month?"), the uncomfortable comments started rolling in the moment I swapped my skinny jeans for maternity wear — and they haven't let up.
Add in a bunch of unsolicited medical advice ("Are you sure you should be drinking that lemon, lime and bitters?"), and it's enough to make me want to waddle away furiously in protest.
Most of these comments are well-meaning. But if you're pregnant and bothered by these intrusive questions — or starting to feel like a golden retriever from all the unwanted belly-patting — it's worth having some tactics in place to deal with these oh-God-how-do-I-respond moments.
So I asked the experts to share their best advice on how to react to intrusive comments during pregnancy.
Melbourne-based midwife, author and podcaster Cath Curtin, commonly known as Midwife Cath, has developed some suggestions on how to deal with TMI questions throughout her four decades of experience.
She advises pregnant women to "learn their words" — that is, practise what they might say to unwanted comments in advance.
"Learning the words can give the woman a voice, and also their partners," she says. "It shuts people up."
I asked around my pregnant friends and online networks, and these are some of the questions they were regularly asked:
You're looking HUGE! Are you sure it's not twins?
You're looking TINY! Are you sure you're pregnant?
Was it planned/was it a surprise?
How long were you trying?
Did you conceive naturally or through IVF?
Let me tell you this birth horror story…
Are you happy it's another boy/girl? Are you going to try again for the opposite sex?
Can I feel your bump?
How much weight have you gained?
Are you planning to breastfeed?
Should you be eating that?
Why did you decide to keep the baby? (Sounds unbelievable — but several younger mums I know have been asked this one. )
Preparing a few standard responses can save you responding with a frozen grin and then reprimanding yourself later for not standing up for yourself. It can also save you from feeling like a grouch when you say something horrible to someone who really just meant well.
It's worth memorising some responses such as "funny you say that, my doctor is happy my baby's an average size" or "my baby's tracking beautifully" in response to comments about your bump size, Midwife Cath says.
You might also want to prepare a standard response for people who try to tell you labour horror stories, adds Sarah Goldberg, a doula, pregnancy massage therapist and childbirth educator based in Melbourne.
She points to one client's response to a neighbour who started telling a birth story as a perfect example of how to gracefully assert boundaries.
"My client said, 'I would love to hear your stories after I have my baby, but let's save them for after the baby. I'm just taking care of my mind at the moment and I'm trying to prepare myself the best that I can in my own way'. "
Personal questions about your fertility, such as "how long did you take to conceive?" or "did you use IVF?" aren't usually intended to cause harm. But for women who have experienced pregnancy loss or fertility struggles, they can be not just awkward but distressing.
For particularly intrusive comments, it may be appropriate to straight-up tell the person the question is a private matter.
"I look after a lot of same-sex families and some have people ask them, 'Whose egg is it?' and they just say, 'Actually, it's none of your business'," says Midwife Cath.
It's fine to change the subject or assert boundaries by saying something like, "It's a bit personal but we feel so lucky to be pregnant now," the experts say.(Unsplash)
For a softer approach to fertility-related questions, you could say something like, "It's a bit personal, but we feel so lucky to be pregnant now", suggests Zarife Hardy, the director of an Australian etiquette school.
"It's also OK to change the subject," she adds.
From "wow, you look like you're full-term already" to "how much weight have you gained?", remarks about a pregnant woman's growing size are best avoided by anyone but her obstetrician and midwife.
Sadly, not all strangers and well-meaning relatives seem to have got that memo.
Ms Hardy and Ms Goldberg suggest responding to weight-related comments with a positive spin — after all, your extra kilos are due to the fact you're growing a whole new human.
You could say something like, "I know, don't I look amazing? I'm so excited my baby's going to be so cute", before changing the subject, suggests Ms Goldberg.
If a more direct approach is needed, you can say "I'd prefer it if you didn't say that" as a way of putting up boundaries, suggests Ms Hardy.
And in response to nosy questions about exactly how much you've gained, you could just say, "My doctor's pleased with how my weight is tracking".
Or simply quip, "It's brave of you to ask a pregnant woman about her weight!"
Your cousin tells you off for sleeping on your right side instead of left. Your colleague predicts you'll need a caesarean section because you're so petite. Your great-aunt laughs when you say you can't eat cold ham.
Unsolicited medical opinions come from all directions when you're pregnant, and many of them take the form of old wives' tales with little medical basis.
One response to this unhelpful advice is: "What I'm going to do is just trust my doctor and see what happens on the day," says Midwife Cath.
You could also let it slide and privately resolve to ignore them.
"I'd just let them ramble and then say, 'Oh, thank you for letting me know. I'll sit on that, I'll let that percolate a little bit'," says Ms Goldberg.
Try to hold back from searching online for this so-called medical advice — it'll only drag you down a rabbit hole of online pregnancy forums filled with dubious guidance.
"What I say to all mothers is, don't google, don't google and don't google," says Midwife Cath.
She advises pregnant women to ask their midwife or doctor directly if they have any concerns.
Rubbing an acquaintance's tummy without consent is considered a big no-no when you're not pregnant — but when you're up the duff, it can feel "like the boundaries are gone", says Ms Hardy.
"People do think it's an open chat because you visually show a baby — you know it's there, you can't hide it."
Sands (miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support) on 1300 072 637
PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) on 1300 726 306
Lifeline on 13 11 14
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
(One pregnant woman I know even had an acquaintance literally lift up her shirt to see her non-existent first-trimester belly!)
It may be tempting to yell "mits off my uterus!" when this happens. Or to reach out and stroke their tummy in response, as some pregnant woman have done.
A more socially acceptable response is to gently intercept their grab, suggests Ms Goldberg: "If somebody went to touch my belly when I was pregnant, I would just sort of grab their hand and hold their hand instead, in a gentle loving way."
Or you can be straight with them. Midwife Cath suggests simply saying, "Actually, I don't want you to touch my belly."
Or use my preferred response: just say, "No thanks, I'm all patted out today."
If you're feeling really upset or triggered by comments about your pregnancy or weight gain, it's an opportunity to unpack what's going on for you emotionally.(Unsplash)
Most people asking intrusive pregnancy questions are doing so out of genuine concern and excitement for you, and don't realise their questions might be inappropriate, says Ms Hardy.
But even if you know that rationally, all the tummy-grabbing and unwanted opinions can get you down.
If that's happening for you, Ms Goldberg says that's an opportunity to examine what's deeply affecting you and why.
"Be observant about what's happening when people come up to you and say those things," she says. "If you're feeling really triggered, think what's going on about behind that — there might be underlying emotional stuff that needs to be addressed."
Are you feeling anxious about the birth? Or really self-conscious about the changes to your body?
Now is a good time to address them, whether with a therapist or doctor, or by booking into a childbirth education course or similar.
With a bit of help, you can start feeling excited about the birth and your changing body — regardless of that parade of strangers asking about your sex life.
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Question to a psychologist: I don't like it when my stomach is touched! - Parents.ru
Getty Images/Photononstop RF
When at 5 months my belly became round and visible, every meeting with friends or relatives ended with an insistent request: “Can I touch it?” Summer is coming, and I don’t know what to do, because it irritates me insanely. Am I okay, or am I making an elephant out of a fly?
Zhanna, by e-mail
Such a question, which looks more like an insistent request, is heard by every expectant mother during pregnancy, and not just once. In our country, perhaps even more often, because in our culture there is a sign: if a young lady touches the belly of a pregnant woman, she will soon find herself in an interesting position.
Most expectant mothers react calmly to the increased attention to their own person, but some are annoying, and sometimes completely unceremonious persuasion. There are women who, because of this, refuse to go to visit, meet friends and participate in family celebrations. Such a seemingly cardinal decision, as well as a sharp reaction dictated by hostility and internal rejection, also has the right to exist. True, the question here is rather not about the norm, but about the fact that it is difficult for you personally to say “No!”. Perhaps you are afraid that your refusal will be interpreted as a sign of distrust or disrespect.
Yes, the belly, especially when it is already difficult to hide it under a dress, with its size and outstanding shape seems to be asking for compliments and caresses. It is certainly impossible not to notice him, so it is difficult for many of us to resist the inner impulse to stroke him. If we discard the signs, then this can be found a simple explanation: when we touch the belly of a pregnant woman, deep down we want one thing - to touch the mystery of the origin of life. As a fortuneteller touches her crystal ball, trying to read fate, so we hope to get a short, but quite mystical experience.
However, it does not prevent future mothers from having their own thoughts on this matter. A pregnant woman in general and her belly in particular are very vulnerable. And the expectant mother understands this better than anyone else.
The larger her belly becomes, the stronger her fear of hurting it may become. So it is only natural that the closer the birth, the more she thinks about how to protect herself and the baby from potential risks.
The fact that there are people around who don't think about it, ignore these risks and want to touch her stomach at all costs, can disturb and even annoy the expectant mother. In fact, such a reaction is due to the instinct of self-preservation. It is not for nothing that in the wild, in many species of animals, pregnant females try to lead a secluded, secretive lifestyle, so as not to once again show themselves to the eyes of either enemies or brothers. And for us, for people, the persistent desire of others to touch the stomach can be regarded on an unconscious level as physical aggression towards the child or a violation of personal boundaries.
If you personally dislike such touching, you have the right to speak openly about it. Of course, it is still better for your husband and close relatives to make indulgences, after all, they are directly related to your unborn child and wish you only the best. But with people outside your close circle of friends, you do not have to share this privilege. They can say this: “Sorry, I don’t like it when my stomach is touched. I only allow my husband!”
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Vasilisa Volodina: “I am a very uncomfortable astrologer - I don’t give bright forecasts” Moms, don't be afraid, the baby is under protection
Quite often, mothers ask obstetricians how dangerous it is to sleep on their stomachs, hit their tummy, or get elbowed by fellow citizens in public transport. Will it hurt the baby? Doctors are trying to reassure: the baby is under reliable protection. This does not mean that you do not need to protect the tummy at all, but you should not panic too much and be afraid that the slightest impact can harm the baby. The baby is in the amniotic fluid, which reliably absorb all shocks. So, most of the anxiety is a psychological factor. Any mother instinctively covers her tummy, as if protecting the baby.
Have a good sleep
Quite often expectant mothers worry about what position to sleep in so as not to harm the baby. Don't worry and trust your feelings. At the very beginning of pregnancy, the uterus does not increase much in size, your baby is still a baby-with-a-nail, so sleeping on your stomach does not interfere or harm either mom or baby. As the uterus grows in size, you yourself will feel that lying on your stomach becomes uncomfortable and will begin to avoid this position. Someone else sleeps on their back for several months, someone immediately rolls over on their side. The position "on the back" also quickly becomes uncomfortable, because in the later stages the inferior vena cava is clamped, and you will feel discomfort.
In the third trimester of pregnancy, as a rule, the mother intuitively comes to the conclusion that it is uncomfortable to sleep even on her side. Many begin to put a roller from a blanket under the tummy - and this is completely normal. For some it is convenient to lay a roller between the legs - listen to yourself and sleep in a comfortable position. All the same, in a dream, a person changes position involuntarily, so it is very naive to think about the “correct” position for sleeping. Remember that the mattress should not be hard, otherwise it will give you torment. The ideal option is anatomical mattresses that take the shape of the body, but they are quite expensive. Refuse for a while from hard orthopedic beds, even if they helped you to relax before. Sleep on softer.
Many mothers are afraid of bumps and falls, which happen quite often, because the tummy protrudes in the later stages. There are myths among the people that an abortion or placental abruption can occur during a fall, and popular television series inform us about this, in which the heroines lose a child from one accidental fainting. In fact, it's not like that at all. Placental abruption occurs with gestosis, abortion can occur from mechanical trauma only if the mother had a threat of interruption in a severe form, in which hospitalization is usually carried out. In general, even in severe car accidents, pregnancy can often be saved.
However, mother's worries are quite understandable. Therefore, if you are worried, talk to your doctor, describe your symptoms, if he deems it necessary, do an extraordinary ultrasound.
Clothes for the belly
No less myths about how important it is to dress properly. Many mothers, undressing and seeing a trace of an elastic band from panties on their stomach, are already afraid that they have harmed the baby. Yes, indeed, in position it is better to dress in loose clothing. During the day, swelling can occur, and you just feel more useful and comfortable without extra rubber bands. However, it is hardly possible to harm the baby with a belt in the place where the waist used to be.