Yes, there is a scientifically-backed reason why many pregnant women feel the need to take up as much space as possible, whether it’s on the subway, at a restaurant, or on the couch next to their partner at home. There’s a new study that proves women in the third trimester of their pregnancies want people to “back up” so to speak as they need a much bigger protective bubble around them.
According to Parents.com, moms are more sensitive about people touching their baby bumps or just being too close to them during the third trimesters of their pregnancies. Women want people – including their co-workers, friends and even their family – to keep their distance, especially when some get a little too close for comfort.
The research revealed that the brain’s sense of space changes when a person’s body changes. This is especially true during a pregnancy, as many moms go into protective mode without even thinking about it.
The study’s author, Flavia Cardini, Ph.D., a senior lecturer in psychology at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, recently told Parents.com in an interview that she wanted to study what is called ‘peripersonal space’ and how it impacts people, especially during pregnancies. During her study, she instructed a group of blindfolded participants to push a button whenever they felt a tap on their stomachs.
She told the publication, “This tap was delivered while a three-second sound was played, and participants had the impression of a sound moving towards them," Dr. Cardini says. "We measured speed in responding to the touch."
And while a lot of people can’t see this so-called protective bubble that pregnant women create, moms can definitely feel it. Many health experts believe that a mom will create her own physical boundaries for several different reasons. This is because she feels as though her uterus and her baby are the most valuable commodities inside her body.
"The changes the body undergoes during pregnancy are very fast and massive," Dr. Cardini says. "The brain might not be able to adapt to them quickly, which might be why it needs to expand the sense of near space in order to better monitoring external threat."
So, what can friends and family do? It’s simple. Respect pregnant women regardless of what trimester they may be in and most importantly, ask before you touch. A visual baby bump shouldn’t be perceived as an invitation to touch a woman’s abdomen the same way one wouldn’t touch an exhibit in a museum.