How to Cope with People Touching Your Belly (or Don’t Touch My Belly, Dammit!)

Touching bellyYour body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. You gain weight. You may feel nauseous. Those changes are the ones you expected. What you did not expect is that your belly somehow becomes community property when your pregnancy starts to show.

Friends, family, and total strangers think nothing of rubbing your abdomen as your pregnancy progresses. You might not mind a close friend or your mother (or maybe your husband depending on how you feel that day) touching your belly. You might allow someone you know to touch your belly after they ask politely. But utter strangers will come up to you and start not just touching you but actually rubbing your belly as if all rules about personal space and common courtesy have left the planet.

Rubbing your belly? Do they expect that the baby will come out in a cloud of smoke like a genie and grant wishes?

Unwanted touching of a pregnant belly is so widespread that a rumor started that Pennsylvania had passed a law against it. A Pennsylvania woman did file charges against a man who touched her belly and then touched it again after she told him to stop, but the charges were not specific to her being pregnant. Most states have laws against harassing someone, which includes repeated unwanted touching.

No one would think about walking up to a woman and touching her breast, but somehow the need to touch a pregnant woman’s belly is widespread. Little kids may do it, elderly ladies try it, other adult women may even want to put a hand on you long enough to feel the baby move. People will tell you that they want to experience the miracle of life within you.

The problem is to the point where if the pregnant woman complains about the unwanted touching she must be either oversensitive or hormonal. Don’t fall for that trap. It is your body. You have the right to back away from the toucher and say “No!” firmly.

Some women say they have had luck with touching back. If someone puts their hand on their pregnant abdomen, they put a hand on that person’s abdomen and ask them how they like it. Others have tried humorous T-shirts.

You do not have to be touched if you do not want to be touched. You don’t have to be rude. You don’t have to yell. But you can and should tell people that it bothers you. This is true for anyone who is laying a hand on you, whether it is your aunt or some stranger in a supermarket checkout line.

If someone asks politely first before putting their hand on you, you can decide whether to allow it. It is your body and your decision. With a friend, if you want, you can say no and add an explanation. But no matter whom it is and no matter what, you have the right to say no.

What have been your personal experiences in this matter! Hate it, love it? Tell us in the comments section below!

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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