It’s the displeasing paradox of pregnancy – the bigger you are, the more invisible you become. After enduring pregnancy after pregnancy of having to stand on public transport I’ve decided to break my huffing, puffing, belly swaying, passive-aggressive silence. I’m going to explain once and for all why you should shift your perfectly capable cheeks off that seat and give it to a pregnant woman.
Here are some actual comments made during online discussions on the topic:
“I’ve been drinking beer for the past 30 odd years and my belly is huge!!!!! In fact it’s bigger than a woman who is 8 months pregnant. So why should I give my seat up for someone who is slimmer than me”.
“An exhausted man deserves a seat just as much as an exhausted woman. I’d sooner give up my seat for a man who looks worn down and ill, than a pregnant woman who looks well and able.”
“That’s the two edged sword of equality ladies – deal with it.”
“She is pregnant, not ill old or infirm. she just got laid. that’s all. why does everyone think they ‘deserve’ something.”
There’s obviously a lot of ignorance around, the abundance of which has prompted me to create this pregnant woman’s arsenal of comebacks…
10 reasons to give up your seat for a pregnant woman:
1. Back pain. Most pregnant women experience back pain at some point during their pregnancies. As a woman’s pregnancy progresses, her change in stance strains the back muscles and causes spinal curvature and pelvic inclination leading to backache (Bullock-Saxton. J). The ache might worsen near the end of pregnancy because not only is the weight getting heavier, but the baby’s head might be in a position that pushes against the lower spine. Furthermore, as the abdominal muscles expand, they lose some of their ability to keep the spine erect and stable. Lack of stability and a change in the center of gravity can cause posture to change during standing which aggravates back pain. The most common type of back pain experienced in pregnancy is called ‘lumbar pain’. It is felt in the lower back, at the level of, or slightly higher than, the waist. It often results in pain that radiates to the legs. Lumbar pain is triggered by excess periods of standing. Moreover, these changes to skeletal stability are exacerbated by the normal weight gain that all healthy pregnant women experience. The average weight gain for a pregnant woman is equivalent to the weight of a 2 year old.
2. Blood pressure. For a pregnant woman, standing in an almost motionless position is more dangerous than walking around. “Standing still for long periods tends to lower blood pressure, and being pregnant would make that worse. If your blood pressure drops, you can get light-headed and potentially even faint” (Artal. R). When standing, a pregnant woman’s heart rate increases, cardiac output decreases and blood pressure falls. When the woman then takes a sitting position, her heart rate, cardiac output and blood pressure returned to normal. Concomitant with these maternal heart rate changes, different patterns of fetal heart rate have been observed. About 70% of fetuses showed reduction in the long-term variability, increase in fetal heart rate or periodic accelerations (Schneider. K).
4. Weak joints. The effects of hormonal changes on a pregnant woman’s ligaments can increase the likelihood of injury. Unsurprisingly this risk is increased further when she’s swaying around on public transport. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is released to soften the joints in preparation for the birth of the baby. It also makes them unstable, so seemingly simple twisting motions can cause painful sprains. Also for one in four pregnant women the relaxin hormone causes the ligaments to soften and stretch too much and become painful (NHS). This is commonly called Symphysis Pubis Disorder and can be unbearable.
5. Fatigue. Many women feel constantly tired in pregnancy, even before they’re showing or carrying any extra weight. Being pregnant puts a strain on the entire body. Hormone levels (for instance, the dramatic rise in progesterone) and metabolism of a pregnant woman are rapidly changing, while her blood sugar and blood pressure tend to be lower, all contributing to her sense of fatigue. Add to this the growing weight of the abdomen and difficulties sleeping due to backache, heartburn, leg cramps and SPD. Unsurprisingly fatigue is worsened by long periods of standing. One study found “marked cyclic accelerations” in heart rate in two-thirds pregnant women when in a standing position (Schneider. K). Fatigue can also be a symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, which is common in pregnancy. Around 42 percent of pregnant woman are anemic as a result of their pregnancy (Stoltzfus. RJ et al). During pregnancy, the amount of blood in a woman’s body increases until she has almost 50 percent more than usual. Anemia can make feelings of tiredness, weakness, and dizziness more intense.
7. Premature birth. Standing in a continued upright position can increase the risk of delivering a premature baby. This is because standing causes pooling of blood in the lower extremities, and that means that less is available for the uterus. Moreover, the enlarging uterus and fetus press on the vessels coming out of the pelvis and add insult to injury by diminishing return of blood from the legs to the heart. All of this can compromise the blood-driven nutrition to the developing fetus (Hatch. M; Henriksen. T et al; Fortier. I; Klebanoff. MA; Naeye. R; Escribà-Agüir. V; Mozurkewich. E et al). These risks are particularly severe if a woman has a history of previous pre-term birth, multiple miscarriages, known abnormalities of her uterus or cervix, bleeding (especially after the second trimester), a small-for-gestation pregnancy, low levels of amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), or multiple gestations (twins or more). Also, standing for long periods has been significantly associated with low birth weight babies (Eunhee. H et al). Low birth weight babies are at risk of extra health problems, not only as infants but also, sometimes, throughout their lives. In addition, the infant mortality rate increases dramatically when babies are born with a low birth weight.
9. Hemorrhoids. Fondly known as ‘piles’, hemorrhoids are swollen veins that appear as painful lumps on the anus. Think of them as the various veins of the arse. You may assume that standing can ease haemorrhoids but that couldn’t be further from the truth – standing for long periods can actually cause haemorrhoids in pregnant women. They often form as a result of increased circulation and pressure on the rectum and vagina from the growing baby. Hemorrhoids can be itchy, uncomfortable, and downright painful, like sitting on shards of glass.
10. Frequent urination. During pregnancy, when your breasts, arse and feet have grown, it feels like the only part of your body to actually reduce in size is your bladder. Repeated trips to the toilet are an unfortunate hallmark of pregnancy. One of the reasons for this is not bladder reduction, rather it is caused by a woman’s growing uterus and growing baby pressing against her bladder making the urge to urinate more intense. This is exacerbated by standing as the force of gravity pulls the baby onto the bladder. A lot of pregnant women notice that they don’t need to urinate until they stand up for a period of time. If you’re stuck on a bus with a baby pressing on your bladder and no toilet in sight, it can be very uncomfortable and often painful. Not to mention the fact that around 50% of all pregnant women suffer from stress incontinence (McPherson. H and Patrick. K) – otherwise known as peeing your pants.
Why should other people pay for a woman’s choice to be pregnant?
Pregnancy is (in most cases) an elective choice. A woman chose to be pregnant, so surely she should deal with the consequences? Comments such as this appear to believe that choosing to have a child is purely an individual act. However they neglect the fact that having a child can be a contribution to society as a whole. In 30 years the engine of our economy will be dependent upon today’s ‘bumps’. If we don’t safeguard babies, our engine will creak to a halt. Who will pay into social security and care for the growing elderly population in 30 years? Producing and raising children is a productive activity. When it is done well, everyone in society benefits.Furthermore, let’s not forget karma. You might need someone to give up their seat for you one day. The less people that give up their seat, the weaker the expectation that those who are capable of standing should give up their seat to those less capable. That means elderly people, those carrying children, the disabled, and people with injuries are more likely to suffer. Many Governments recognise that random acts of kindness enhance social-cohesion and make communities more pleasant and productive. Recently the UK Government created the “Together for London” campaign which focused on social responsibility. Posters such as this one were placed around London, particularly in Tube stations:
What about gender equality?
It’s clear from the comments at the start of this article that some people hold misconceptions about the relationship between pregnancy and equality. Women want equality with men, so why should they expect ‘special’ treatment when it comes to pregnancy? After all, a man has paid the same price as the pregnant woman for his transport ticket. These are common arguments from bitter lazybones unwilling to shift their ass. In response I would argue that equality is recognising, rather than denying, that men and women are physiologically different, and that this diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority. With regard to pregnancy, equality means that women should be treated differently, because their differences are such that same treatment cannot provide equity. Rights should be based on needs, and if women have needs that men do not, that should not limit their rights. Although differences exist between men and women, equality should function to make these differences “costless”. The cost of standing for long periods is far greater for a pregnant woman than for an able-bodied man.Next time I observe the naive, ignorant or bitter touting that giving up a seat for a pregnant woman is outdated, unnecessary or unfair, I will link to this article. Whatever happened to human kindness? Let’s try to bring it back.