Do People Touch Your Pregnant Belly?

Two women touching a pregnant belly

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For some reason, people sometimes think it's OK to touch a pregnant woman's belly without even asking. And while some women are OK with this gesture—and may even welcome it from close family members—others are very annoyed and find the patting and stroking invasive. After all, it's their body and yet people are putting their hands on it anytime they want.

While there are always going to be people who want to pat your growing belly, don't feel like your belly has somehow become part of the public domain. Even though it may be protruding, it's still part of your body and belongs to you. If you're struggling with the fact that people keep touching your pregnant belly without asking first, we have compiled some tips on how to address this behavior.

Learn How to Block

Perhaps the most effective way to keep people from touching your pregnant belly without asking is to learn how to block. In other words, if someone is leaning in to touch your belly, block them with your hand, your bag, your computer, or even your drink.

In fact, that is exactly what Grace Kelly did in 1956 when she didn't want a photographer to snap a shot of her growing baby bump. Instead of allowing the prying eyes of the public to know whether she was pregnant or not, Kelly held her bag in front of her belly when photographers were around.

The photo, which was eventually published in Life magazine, became so popular that the company renamed the purse she was carrying as "the Kelly bag."

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How to Deal With Unwanted Pregnancy Advice

Pat Them Back

Although this tip will take a little courage, you may be able to stop frequent offenders by patting their belly, as well. Be prepared for a shocked look, though.

After all, they may wonder why you are patting their belly. But taking this step may be all you need to do in order to drive the point home that people don't always appreciate being touched or patted without any warning.

Ask Them Not to Touch You

With some people—especially strangers in the grocery store—you may have to be direct and ask them not to touch your belly. And while you don't owe them an explanation, you can simply say, "Please don't touch my stomach, it makes me uncomfortable," and leave it at that.

Even if they ask why, you can let your statement stand on its own. You don't owe anyone an explanation. It's your body and your choice. Pressing the issue or arguing with you is controlling and it's best to just walk away from people who challenge you.

Aside from not needing the added stress, you don't have to answer their question. You already told them why—because it makes you uncomfortable. A demand for more information is inappropriate.

Get Creative

Sometimes it helps to come up with a canned response that you use when people either ask to touch your belly or are reaching out to stroke your growing abdomen. Some popular options are, "Please don't touch my belly right now, it causes my stomach to cramp," or you could say, "The baby is resting right now and I don't want them to start kicking again."

You could even say, "Oh, don't touch my belly, my skin is so sensitive right now," or "No, thanks, I am all patted out right now." The key is to have a few responses memorized so that when someone moves in to touch you without your consent, you know just what to say.

No matter what excuse you give, most people will be respectful of your wishes, especially if you say it with a smile. You could even turn slightly away at the same time to subtly emphasize your point.

A Word From Verywell

Some women are fine with belly touching and view it as a nice way for people to be part of their pregnancy. Meanwhile, others don't feel comfortable having people put their hands on them.

At the end of the day, it is your body and your pregnancy. Just as you have the right to allow people to pat your belly, you also have the right to ask someone not to touch you—regardless of their relationship to you. After all, it's never too late for people to learn that it's best to keep their hands to themselves—even when it comes to pregnant bellies.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.