July 11, 2018
Standing up and offering your seat to a pregnant woman on a crowded subway may seem like the polite and considerate thing to do, but many commuters fail to do so, based on findings of a recent survey of 2,000 public transit customers in the United Kingdom.
Indeed, the survey—conducted by skincare company Mama Mio and posted by Study Finds on July 5—found that slightly more than half (60%) of straphangers think the gesture is necessary. And then only if a woman is past her first trimester and “showing” a baby bump.
Why are they so reluctant? First there is the embarrassing issue, Is she really pregnant or will I be implying that she is fat? Second, there is the philosophy, She chose to become pregnant, why pamper her? Third, of course, is apathy.
When asked why they don’t give up their seats, 25% of respondents reasoned they didn’t want to offer a woman their seat in case she wasn’t actually pregnant. Admittedly, 7% of women said they’d been mistaken for pregnant by another commuter when they weren’t.
“We were surprised at the findings, as we’d expected everyone would offer up their seat to a pregnant woman,” commented Natalie Cowley of Mama Mio in a statement. “We were particularly shocked that only 2% said you should offer a seat to a woman in her first trimester, considering how many suffer from severe symptoms during this time, including sickness and fatigue.”
The findings have led Mama Mio to launch an #ExpectingChange campaign in which they encourage pregnant women to be more vocal and ask people to give up their seats for them.
“Busy, hot, and cramped commuting conditions can be incredibly stressful both physically and mentally, and being able to sit down can make a difference. However, from my own experience, I find that people are either too engrossed in their phones to be aware of their surroundings, or won’t offer their seat unless prompted,” says Anna Whitehouse, founder of parenting blog Mother Pukka and an ambassador for the #ExpectingChange campaign.“I’d encourage anyone who needs a seat on public transport to wear a badge and make eye contact. If that fails, don’t suffer in silence – ask for one!”
Which is exactly what the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is espousing in New York City—where an awareness program launched in May 2017 encourages customers “to move their feet and offer a seat for pregnant riders, seniors, and those with a disability.”
Last year, the Big Apple’s MTA sponsored a pilot program, running from Mother’s Day through Labor Day in September, to examine ways to encourage courtesy by helping riders to easily identify fellow customers with specialized needs. Through the program, customers who are pregnant could choose from a “Baby on Board” button or a “Please Offer Me a Seat” courtesy button. The latter also was made available to customers with disabilities and seniors who chose to wear them.
“Pregnant riders, seniors and those with disabilities often need seats more than others, but their condition may not always be visible,” said the MTA’s then- Interim Executive Director Ronnie Hakim. “We hope this campaign will help their fellow riders to be more willing to offer them a seat without having to ask a personal question first.
“While we continue to designate ‘priority seating’ for riders with disabilities, this is another way to expand the availability of seating for those who need it most,” Hakim added.
We contacted the New York City MTA to find out about program results, but, at press time, we had not heard back yet.
Research contact: @mamamio