For most women, a pregnant belly is something to celebrate, but not necessarily an open invitation for strangers’ hands. Almost every expecting mother has been on the receiving end of a well-meaning touch to her tummy, but is this socially acceptable? Are belly rubbers crossing a boundary? Two mothers with different viewpoints and multiple etiquette experts weighed in on the topic.
Jamila Musayeva, a coach and certified international etiquette expert, believes that touching a woman’s belly without her inviting you to do so is unacceptable. She told Fox News Digital that touching a woman’s belly is being in her personal space, a space meant for siblings, parents, partners, or those we deem close to us. She added that a colleague or acquaintance touching isn’t acceptable, let alone a complete stranger. However, Musayeva noted that there’s no universal protocol regarding touching a woman’s belly, as it depends on the person’s cultural, religious, and personal beliefs and values.
Michelle McMullen, owner of MGM Etiquette, agreed that discretion is necessary when it comes to touching pregnant bellies. She told Fox News Digital that the belly of a pregnant woman might seem irresistible to touch, but you must resist. She added that the idea of new life may spark joy for many, but the emotions of pregnancy can be challenging for the mother because protectiveness and vulnerability are common. McMullen advised that if you’re close to the woman, you should ask permission to touch her. When it comes to strangers, a ‘congratulations’ and a warm smile are more appropriate to express your sentiments.
South Lebanon, Ohio, mom Megan Elizabeth Guist said she was very protective of her belly during her pregnancy. She shared that she had multiple pregnancy losses and was told she would never be able to carry full term, then got pregnant with her miracle baby. She added that she loved rubbing her belly and talking to her baby but didn’t like people outside of her inner circle or family touching her belly. Guist said she feels that, too often, people are okay with invading a pregnant woman’s space. However, she said that if someone were to ask permission to touch her belly, she would likely have allowed it.
Another Ohio mom, Karen James-Hall, shared a different perspective on people touching her belly when she was pregnant with her daughter 39 years ago. Hall told Fox News Digital that she loved every belly touch or rub that she got. She said she felt like the person who rubbed or touched her belly was getting to know her daughter before she got here. She added that she believes all of this gave her the happiest baby once she was born, and her daughter was so loved from her first breath outside the womb.
Touching a pregnant woman’s belly is clearly a sensitive topic and depends on the person. The next time you see a pregnant belly in public that you want to rub, consider how that would make the pregnant woman feel and perhaps offer your ‘congratulations’ instead. However, if you’re in her immediate circle, consider asking permission before giving her belly a rub or touch.