Stop touching my pregnant belly!

Last year, headlines were made when a man in Pennsylvania was charged with harassment after touching a pregnant woman’s belly. She had asked him to stop, and when he didn’t she pushed him away and called the police. 

The story that was often reported stated that this was a new law put in place to specifically address unwanted belly rubs. However, the truth is that no new laws were ever developed for this specific purpose or from this specific incident. Rather, it’s already illegal to touch anybody without their consent in every state in this country, and a pregnant woman’s abdomen is already protected under those laws.

Of course, coverage of this story went to the extreme, and people started saying it was unfair to think that they could be arrested for a friendly pat. However, as any pregnant woman can tell you, dealing with strangers approaching you, touching your belly (where your fragile unborn child rests!), and commenting on your pregnancy before even exchanging niceties is something few women enjoy — especially when it happens multiple times a day.

And happen multiple times a day it does. In addition to the insensitive comments (“There is no way you are only 35 weeks — you look ready to pop!”), there is the questioning of your judgment (“Are you sure you don’t want decaf?”), the scare tactics (“Oh my gosh, it hurts so much having a baby! It was the worst!”), and the oversharing (“When I was pregnant…”). Top it off with unwanted touching, and you end up with one very frustrated pregnant woman.

Keep in mind these scenarios happen almost daily for many pregnant women, and the key is that it is often from complete strangers. It’s one thing if your best friend wants to feel your baby kick and offer helpful advice about labor and delivery, but it’s quite another when it comes in the middle of grocery shopping from the person checking you out (when there is no escape while your food gets rung up!).

Therefore, before you assume a pregnant woman wants your (unwashed stranger) hands on her, ask. Or better yet, assume she doesn’t, and walk along. You’ll never get in trouble with kind words and thinking about how it feels to waddle in another person’s shoes.

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Medical Director, Pregnancy

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.


  1. This makes me chuckle. It never really bothered me that much when people touched my belly, although if it was happening all the time I might feel differently. I did have a kid try to lift my shirt up once, so that was a little awkward 😉


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