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 nonpregnant 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.