Personal space in pregnancy

You might not have realised it when you were thinking about having a baby, or even when the blue line appeared on the test stick, but your pregnancy is not a private matter it's a public event.

From the moment you start showing, friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers will be hypnotically drawn to your bump – and they won't just look at it.

All hands to the bump

For most women, the strangest aspect of people's fascination with their pregnancy is the intense interest in their bump.

In your non-pregnant life it's unlikely you'll ever have to deal with your belly being rubbed on a daily basis, but as soon as your bump appears everyone you meet will expect to be included in the baby's kicks.

When the toucher is your partner, your mum or your best friend, you'll probably be happy to share the experience, but colleagues and strangers are another matter.

Unfortunately, society's usual rules about the sacredness of personal space don't seem to apply to pregnant women.

Not knowing how to respond is understandable, especially as people seem to feel you're not a good sport if you don't allow them to paw your stomach. If you can, try to grin and bear it most people mean well and are just curious.

However, if people reaching out for your bump saying, 'You don't mind, do you' makes you squirm, try one of the following:

  • Put your own hands on your bump it sends out a 'keep off' signal to other people.

  • Take a deep breath and politely ask them not to touch you because it makes you feel uncomfortable. They may feel you're being rude, but you're not they're invading your personal space.

  • Give them a taste of their own medicine: reach out for their belly as they reach for yours, and explain you're into equal exchange.

Care to comment?

Not everyone feels they can touch your bump, but nothing on earth will stop them having an opinion about your pregnancy, be it your size, your shape or your "unpregnant" conduct.

The truth is, you're no longer seen as an adult woman; you're a baby-carrier, and as such, people feel they have the right to have their say (naturally, they're concerned about your baby's "welfare", not just nosy and opinionated – or so they'll tell you).

Your abdomen's new-found celebrity is likely to have the most impact at work, where colleagues don't usually ask about your sex life or discuss your weight gain in a meeting.

If you feel you're being excluded or sidelined because of your pregnancy, don't take it lying down – discriminating against you is illegal.

If personal comments (from the receptionist, the mailman and everyone by the photocopier) are driving you mad, give these strategies a go:

  • Respond to all intrusive questions ('Was it planned?' or 'So, are you covered in stretchmarks, then?') with a smile and the words, 'Why do you ask?'

  • If your weight is up for discussion, or your growing breasts are the topic of the day, a retort about the other person's physical attributes should shut them up.

Being the centre of attention for nine months is exhausting. However, most people are just interested in your pregnancy and want a tiny glimpse of the exciting thing that's happening to you.

After the baby's born you'll find the interest will immediately be transferred to your offspring (you might even miss it).

And things could be a lot worse: in some cultures, touching a pregnant woman's belly is considered to be good luck. At least your partner's football team doesn't queue up for a quick rub before a match…

Things you don't want to hear when you're pregnant

  1. 'Was it planned?'
  2. 'You're not showing very much yet, are you?'
  3. 'How many have you got in there?'
  4. 'You're really putting on weight all over, aren't you!'
  5. 'When's baby number two coming?'