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Is She Pregnant or Just Fat?

By Rebecca Odes |

"pregnant on the subway"

UK commuters said the most common reason for not offering their seat to a pregnant woman was fear that they might be mistaking a fat belly for a pregnant one, says a story on a British parenting website.

Okay, I acknowledge that these things can sometimes be ambiguous.  Pregnancy looks different on different bodies. And with the obesity rate rising, it’s certainly more likely than ever that the enlarged belly in question has no baby in it.

We all know absolutely nobody wants to make that supreme faux pas, but…

Really.  It’s hard to wonder if this might be some convenient “confusion” in the guise of politeness. Four out of five pregnant women surveyed had been ignored on public transport and had to stand while others sit. Could people really be worried about getting it wrong that often?

The U.K. is a bastion of politeness, which may be part of the issue. Offending someone just seems a bit more offensive over there. The website,, believes it has a solution: Baby on Board buttons for easy bump distinction.

Pregnant women are denied seats in the U.S. too. On the NYC subway, it happens often, and the outcome can go either way. I’ve seen people pretend pregnant women aren’t even there, and strangers come to a pregnant woman’s rescue, accosting seated men on a crowded train. Maybe this could be a good Babble marketing opportunity…but something tells me New Yorkers won’t be needing a button on their coats to get their point across.

photo: Daquella Manera / Daniel Lobo (Flickr)

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About Rebecca Odes


Rebecca Odes

Rebecca Odes is a writer, artist and mother. She was inspired to write her blog, From The Hips, during her first pregnancy when she discovered every pregnancy book she came across made her feel anxious or irritated. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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0 thoughts on “Is She Pregnant or Just Fat?

  1. The Dapper Dad says:

    You can never go wrong by giving up your seat for women, the elderly and the invalids. Living in NYC I just make it easy by rarely sitting in a crowded subway and I don’t care if I seem rude for giving a woman my seat if I think she is pregnant and she is not. That has never happened to me and oddly enough I have had elderly people (typically NYC) upset that I thought they need a seat.
    To be quite frank, and this may be because I am a husband and father and have seen my wife go through pregnancy, I feel pretty confident I can tell the difference when a woman is showing, as opposed to just being curvaceous. I will take my chances and get up. If you are self conscious then pretend you are heading for the doors without making a grand gesture of it so no one can say you were rude. That’s just one gents opinion.
    The Dapper Dad (

  2. Alicia says:

    Talking about the UK being a bastion of politeness: I once stepped on a guys foot getting onto the Tube in London, and he apologized to me!

  3. PlumbLucky says:

    I’m one of those who just looks “chunky” til I hit about 8 months. This morning someone who should have already heard the news (I’m due in early August) danced around the question so as to ask it as polite as possible. Funny (to me) actually. Can’t say that the few times I’ve been on public transit whilst expecting I’ve been offered a seat, then again, can’t say I’ve been offered a seat ever.

  4. M. Robinson says:

    Hey pregnant ladies, if you want a seat why not ask for it? We don’t have to be shy, a simple “excuse me, I am pregnant, could I please sit down?” will usually suffice.

  5. usmom says:

    I now live in the UK…I rarely come across those superbly polite people…maybe they all live in London or something. LOL

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