Does Pregnancy Make You Feel Touched Out?
During pregnancy it’s not uncommon for women to feel touched out at some point.
Pregnancy can be a very exciting time and brings many changes, some of which are new, confusing and completely unexpected.
You might discover you can’t eat your favourite ice cream; you cry at the drop of a hat; or have incredibly vivid dreams.
There are many wonderful and unexpected changes going on in your body during pregnancy. One of them you might find very surprising is to find you really dislike being touched.
It can range from not wanting to be touched by strangers to avoiding certain forms of intimacy (like a kiss on the cheek). Some women feel physically ill in the presence of certain people.
Other pregnant women find they become intolerant to certain people, including their partner. You might find this aversion to touch can heighten your interactions with people, leaving you feeling tense and anxious.
The difficulty is people are drawn to pregnant bellies and their desire to touch is often well intentioned. Often pregnant women think they’re being silly or feel guilty about not liking being touched.
It doesn’t help when people use language that makes you feel you’re public property. Family might say things such as ‘it’s not just your baby in there, it’s our grandchild’. A friend might say ‘but I never minded it when people touched my belly’. Strangers might comment on your size, their own pregnancy experience, or tell you horror stories about birth.
This increases your anxiety about allowing those people into your personal space. It’s ok to not like being touched but many of us never really question what’s behind this aversion during pregnancy.
Why do I feel touched out during pregnancy?
It’s believed your amazing pregnancy hormones change the way your brain deals with information. Feeling touched out during pregnancy can last weeks and months.
Aversion is your primal instinct saying ‘no thanks, I don’t want that, I don’t like it’. It protects you from harm. Even though it doesn’t seem rational a person touching your belly could cause you harm, pregnancy hormones do fascinating things with deep feelings.
Women are conditioned to accept certain behaviour is normal when they’re pregnant, and feel guilty that they don’t like it. Your response is a signal from a primal level in your body and mind.
Whether it’s a physical or emotional signal being triggered, spend some time honestly exploring your response to being touched. This can help you to connect with yourself on a deeper level, paving the way for more positive interactions.
Here are 6 of the more common reasons why women feel touched out during pregnancy.
#1: The lioness instinct
Many women feel very protective of their body and baby when they’re pregnant. You’re creating another human being and while that’s exciting, there’s also a lot of anxiety about doing it ‘right’.
Should you be eating this? Is it safe to go to that place? Will you make a good mother? Are your needs being met? Do you have underlying fears about pregnancy or birth? You might be overwhelmed by information and advice, or feeling incredibly unsupported by those around you.
Feeling on guard and anxious can heighten your lion mama heart. Seeing a hand stretching out to touch your belly can trigger a sense of protectiveness towards your baby.
#2: Unresolved feelings
When there’s one person in particular who makes you recoil, it’s likely there are unresolved deeper issues and feelings with that person. This might be your partner, a close family member or friend.
In a recent interview, Sarah says “Be observant about what’s happening…If you’re feeling really triggered, think what’s going on behind that reaction — there might be underlying emotional stuff that needs to be addressed.”
Going deeper into those feelings and working through them can benefit you. Carrying negative feelings during pregnancy creates tension in your muscles, disrupts your mind-body connection, and can show up during labour and birth.
#3: Past trauma and aversions
We know there’s a link between past experiences of trauma or abuse and touch aversion. This is something that may have happened long ago and is triggered by feeling vulnerable and anxious about being in control of your body during pregnancy.
There may also be a buried memory of a personal or observed experience that has been linked to being touched during pregnancy. This can be triggered by a smell, a sound or feeling judged. Some women are body conscious, stemming from their early childhood experiences; which triggers an intense aversion to being touched.
#4: You are still you
You may feel having your belly touched makes you feel less like a person and more like an incubator. Pregnant women are still women, yet there are people who think body autonomy doesn’t apply when a pregnant belly is involved.
There is also the sense you’re not being seen for yourself as a pregnant woman. This can have a significant impact on your emotional wellbeing. Many new mamas feel they are forgotten in the excitement around the baby. This can lead to feeling isolated and without support, triggering a protectiveness or physical dislike to being touched.
#5: Cultural differences
Different cultures have their own beliefs and traditions relating to pregnancy. When someone automatically reaches out to touch a pregnancy belly, they are ignoring the potential cultural differences.
In certain cultures there are customs and traditions about touching a pregnant belly that have negative consequences for the mother or the baby. Or strangers touching your belly can cause disapproval from your community.
This can leave you feeling incredibly protective about being touched and possibly anxious about having to prevent it happening.
#6: Sensory overwhelm
Even if this is your first baby and you don’t have other children constantly
grabbing you, there’s a baby inside of you and this can lead to feeling touched all the time.
Often it’s a beautiful feeling, knowing you’re never alone. But pregnancy can make you feel super sensitive to sensations and touch. This is commonly known as feeling touched out.
Feeling touched out often happens when too much is going on, your senses are overwhelmed. A person rubbing your belly can be the last straw andtrigger a physical feeling of aversion.
What can I do about feeling touched out?
We’re hardwired to want contact with other human beings. Being pregnant doesn’t make this less so, rather it increases our need to be connected with our community.
Talking about it to your partner, family and friends can help them to understand it’s not about them. Feeling touched out during pregnancy is usually temporary. Their respectful and sensitive understanding can help you to feel connected and safe.
If overwhelm is a trigger, bring some awareness on how you can take care of yourself. This can be simply getting enough sleep, eating well and spending some mindful time in the fresh air and sunshine.
You may need to learn to ask for and accept help when you need it. Self care or self love is a common phrase we hear today, but it’s an important reminder to prioritise meeting our own needs.
Overwhelm can be a sign of something deeper. Having a trusted support person such as a doula can help you explore and create space for working through concerns, such as fear around birth or anxiety about your baby’s wellbeing. Therapies such as yoga and massage can also help you restore a positive connection with your body.
You don’t owe strangers free access to your body, under any circumstances. The way you feel about being touched might not change. Being aware of your aversion to touch can empower you to respond to someone’s intention to touch you without feeling guilty or ashamed that you don’t like it.
Find out more about Nurtured Birth and the services we offer that may support you through pregnancy here.
Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth