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Pregnant and Passive Agressive, Undeground – What do you think of the “Baby on Board” badges?

So the bump and I commute to work daily by tube. For any of you who’ve jammed yourself into the tube during rush-hour you’re aware of what it’s like. For those of you who drive to work or have never taken the London Underground, it’s a hot, steamy smelly metal tube so full of people you don’t need to hold on to anything as the carriage sways because you’re propped up in some stranger’s armpit. Seats on the tube are always a hot commodity, seats on the end of the row even more so. People like them because you have a glass partition on one side you can lean against, are close to the doors and only have to sit next to 1 person.

For me, I haven’t had too much nausea with this pregnancy, but I’ve had a lot of hip pain which makes standing for long periods difficult, and certainly my center of balance has and is continuing to change making it more likely for me to tip over as the train sways and I lose my balance.

TFL (Transport for London) has recognized the tube is a problem for Preggie Ladies, and have developed a “Baby on Board” badge.

Research shows that Londoners agree that pregnant women should be offered a seat but also reveals that men are afraid to act on their chivalrous instincts in case they give offence. The badges give pregnant women the opportunity to identify themselves to other passengers and it is hoped that they will give them the confidence to ask for a seat if they need one.

London Underground’s Elizabeth Norris said: “It is sad but true that passengers who need to sit down feel that they cannot ask fellow passengers for a seat. Priority Seats on the Tube are clearly marked and anyone who really needs to sit down, including pregnant women, should ask.

“We want to find out if pregnant women will find these badges empowering, encouraging them to ask for the seat they need. We also want to find out how their fellow Tube passengers will react when they see the badges, encouraging them to offer a seat when they know it will be appreciated.”

London Underground has conducted some preliminary research into the issue of pregnant women and seats on the Tube. The research showed:

  • 92% thought that people sitting down should offer the seat to a pregnant woman without having to be asked;
  • 85% think pregnant women should ask for a seat if she needs one;
  • 78% of currently pregnant women stated that they never ask for a seat when they need one.

The end seats I mentioned, are designated “Priority Seats” and are labelled as such with instructions to give your seat to those less able to stand and include a picture of a pregnant woman and a person with a cane.

I don’t feel comfortable just flat out asking the person already seated in those seats to get up and give it to me. I’d like them to – but what if they have some disability I can’t see, a gimpy leg, or just had a really crappy day? Maybe they need it more than me.

My “solution” therefore to try and secure a seat on the tube has been to get on of those “Baby on Board” badges from TFL. I feel like such a ridiculous dork when I wear it.According to TFL:

MUMS-to-be travelling by Tube can get a baby on board badge so passengers know they may need to sit down.

The badges, available from Transport for London (TfL), overcome the awkwardness often felt by pregnant women of having to ask someone to give up their seat.

It also means passengers in priority seats can see when they should give up their place.

But the thing is – I’ve found it only helps me get a seat about 10% of the time. It looks like a follow-up study from TFL has validated my personal experience:

The ‘Mind the Bump’ study revealed that pregnant passengers are currently made to stand for an average of five stops before being offered a seat, and 35 per cent of mums-to-be are never offered a seat.

I’ve found myself racing men to seats, they win then spend the rest of the journey trying to avoid looking at me. It’s only been women who’ve given me a seat, and those have never been one of the “Priority Seats.”  Ok, I understand men are less observent, but I wear the badge on my boobs – can I put it anywhere more likely to be viewed?? Besides, most of the time men take a seat they race me to, other women on the tube start grumbling – so it’s not like the guys can’t hear what’s going on.

This guy (pictured at left) sat in the Priority Seat for 6 stops while I stood directly in front of him, bump and badge pretty much in his face. His face got closer and closer to his paper as he studiously avoided me.

I’d like there to be a second set of badges, stating something like “I’ll give you my seat if you need it” or “Knocked up? I’ll stand!” so then I could say to those people hey, thanks I’d love your seat, thanks so much! Or what about rewarding good behaviors we want to encourage in others. When the TFL gives us the badge they should give us a coupon booklet. Anyone who stands for us and offers us a seat unsolicited gets a coupon or voucher for something.  I’ve been so grateful the few times someone’s given their seat for me – I wish I could have done something more than offer my heartfelt thanks.

What do you think of the badges? Have you worn one? Have you given up your seat for someone wearing one?

Lastly, some interesting stats from LU’s “Mind the Bump” Survey:

  • One in three (36 per cent) frequently felt they had to avoid public transport for fear of having to stand for the duration of the journey
  • One in five (20 per cent) of expectant mums in the Capital spend more than £100 on taxis and private vehicles during their pregnancy to avoid situations where they may have to stand for long periods of time on the Tube
  • London emerged as the least pregnancy-friendly place in the UK, with 45 per cent of London mums having been shocked by the lack of consideration they were shown while pregnant.  (full survey results here on TFL)

LU’s Baby on Board badges are available from the LU Customer Services Centre (0845 330 9880) For further info, or to request a badge, email TFL at babyonboard@tube.tfl.gov.uk  (and if you do get a badge and wear it – let me know what your experience with it is)

 

 

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5 years ago 19 Comments Short URL

19 Comments

  1. I can’t believe this! I was pregnant in London before the badges. I didn’t travel by tube daily and seldom in rush hour, on the buses people were great, I must have been lucky. I was in London over the summer with my kids on the tube (they are 3 and 5) at rush hour and was really impressed by how helpful people were, my London friends say the tube has changed since the Olympics, and I sensed this a little too. So I am so shocked to read this. I saw the badges while I as in London and thought brilliant idea. I think they don’t have the message right though. I think they just need to be more direct and say, ‘I’m pregnant, please give up your seat.

  2. I have never tried a baby on board badge but I found during my last pregnancy even at 8 months pregnant I was never offered a seat on a tube. I would love to include a picture to tell you just how pregnant I looked but I had a 9lb baby two weeks later and was wearing a skin tight vest. If people can’t manage to notice that I don’t see them recognising a badge!
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  3. I consider myself very lucky that I don’t travel to work and very lucky that I don’t use the tube – I have been on it when I used to live in the south east, but I now live near Scotland and I doubt I’ll ever want to use the tube again. I think it’s disgusting that men race you to your seat, pregnant or not – you know what’s done this? Feminism, that’s what. I might be old fashioned but it’s just manners if a man, or woman, sees an elderly person or a pregnant woman or a disabled person, that they shouldn’t even need to be asked to give up their seat. Manners cost nothing. Unfortunately, for some, they don’t exist.

    I’m sorry but I don’t like the badges at all. They scream “look at me, I’m pregnant”. The way people are these days they won’t make a scrap of difference, just like Baby on Board car signs don’t make a difference to drivers who still drive like nutters. If a badge is necessary (and that’s the sad part about this, it shouldn’t be necessary), then it should be a clear message that you need a seat and not a message just to say “I’m pregnant”.

    CJ x
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  4. Pippa says:

    When I visited London pregnant, I just asked people for a seat. No one ever said no, too embarrassed probably. I rewarded this grace with a big smile and lots of gratitude…! But I was obviously pregnant, it would have been much harder to do in the early stages, when in many ways I felt worse, tired and sick… I think the more overt badges are a good idea.

    • Jackie says:

      I have a really hard time asking people. What if they said no? (I suppose nothing really since I’d still be standing) But what if they do get up and they totally flop around because they can’t stand properly or something. I’d much prefer people who are able and willing to stand to offer me a seat.

  5. Kate Buckley says:

    I was in London at 12 weeks pregnant in 2009 and as I was ‘sightseeing’ was able to travel at off peak times but I definitely needed a seat. I felt and looked like death and I would have felt a bit cheeky asking outright for a seat. I probably would have nudged hubby to make someone move. Its awful people don’t move for you and actually race to get a seat in front of you.
    Some sort of badge is a good idea as I meet pregnant women every week, some are obviously pregnant and some not so. The badges eliminate the embarrassment of offering your seat to a lady who is a little tubby and not actually pregnant
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  6. Jo says:

    I was a pregnant commuter, and people are VERY selfish about standing up on the whole. I really hated using the tube. One of my friends worked for TFL and gave me one of the first badges before they were launched, but I never had the courage to wear it. Plus I was heavily pregnancy by then so I think people would have noticed the bump before they noticed the badge. I think the thing is that people are so preoccupied with their own business in London, I couldn’t promise that I have never not noticed a pregnant woman on the tube either.

    I don’t think the whole of feminism should be written off so that we can get a seat on the tube either. I quite like having equal pay, access to pensions, my daughter getting a decent education and those things are much more important to me in the long run ;)

    • Jackie says:

      I agree, people are preoccupied with their own biz here. I also think the tube is an unnatural situation where to compensate for being in people’s personal space we make a huge effort not to look or notice things. Maybe I should wear a huge feather boa or those dealy-bopper things on my head. Oooh maybe the badge should speak or make some noises if I’m in a standing position!

  7. Marj says:

    I used to work for TFL and got one of those badges before they were officially “released”. I never wore one but early on in pregnancy I was actually asked by a man to give up my seat for the elderly man who he was with who was on crutches/had a gammy leg. The reason why? The person sitting in opposite “priority” seat was feigning sleep. I gave up my seat as figured disabled man needed it more but did tell him I was pregnant. Had I been more hormonal I probably would have clocked the faker across the aisle from me…And i don’t think the badge would really have helped. I personally felt a real eejit wearing it so never did.

  8. Jackie says:

    Maybe TFL should arm preggie ladies with squirt-guns filled with icy cold water instead of lame badges then we could really get the attention of people hogging Priority Seats

  9. I was lucky to only have to travel the tube a few times when I was pregnant. One of those times I was really lucky because my fella was with me and would just say really loudly, “Do you want me to ask this guy to move so you can sit, since you’re pregnant?” Lol. The person in the seat jumped up and offered me the seat immediately. The other times I was alone, but I was always offered a seat. The only I had to wait a few stops was after a gig at the O2. I was 8 months pregnant, and there were THOUSANDS of people leaving at the same time, and it was so crowded… The guy in the seat kept looking at me, and finally he just blurted out, “Are you pregnant?” I smiled and said yes, and he jumped up and immediately offered me his seat. Another woman darted over and sat in it before I could even respond, and the guy went absolutely mental at her and made her cry. It was not a fun situation, ,but I did appreciate the fact that he wanted to do the right thing.
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    • Jackie says:

      It’s nice someone offered you a seat – sorry it turned into a bit of a to-do. I think the verbal prompts are a good idea. Whether its hubs or other friends giving people a verbal nudge. Maybe the badge should talk or I should just start moaning and whinging loudly.

  10. Oh this is my pet peeve, I hate it when people don’t offer preggers, elderly or disabled people seats immediately. I got to the point where I would just demand to sit down, if people were avoiding eye contact or pretending to be asleep. Many people are generous, but you’ll find that others are plain lazy. I was once kicked out of a lift when I was heavily preggers plus with buggy by a group of able-bodied adults because it was ‘full’. Never again! (well that’s if I’m ever pregnant again lol).

    I love your idea of giving regular peeps badges saying ‘I’ll offer a seat’ but I also think you shouldn’t be ashamed to wear a badge. Hey get yourself some t-shirts that say, I’m preggers and tired, give me your seat now! If there’s any time in your life where you should be demanding rather than polite, this is it! x
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  11. Jackie says:

    That’s terrible about the lift! I haven’t even thought of that yet. It’s sad that people have lost their manners. I eel dorky enough in the badge, I couldn’t imagine going for the tshirt. I guess I’ll just have to be more forthright in requesting the Priority Seats from people occupying them.

  12. Hayley says:

    I had to do a few trips to our London office while heavily pregnant and a colleague kindly got me one of these, for all it was worth. Just as you mentioned people just avoid making eye contact when they see the badge, one guy saw me on the platform with my huge belly, rubbing my aching back, commented that I must be struggling and then proceeded to push past me when the tube came to get a seat. Most commuters in my experience are selfish, that’s just one of the many reasons I left London.
    Good idea but it needs enforcing!

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