Pregnancy Simulation Dress Makes Moms Skeptical (VIDEO)

06/22/2011 10:05 am ET | Updated Nov 15, 2011
  • David Moye Pop culture journalist, HuffPost Weird News

If you’ve ever wanted to be pregnant, a new device invented by Japanese scientists may inspire a pregnant pause.

It’s a dress that simulates the 9-month pregnancy process in two minutes flat, but New Scientist reports that the pregnancy dress can also be worn for longer periods to allow the user to experience the day-to-day "joys" of the experience.

The dress, invented by Takuya Iwamoto of the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, uses a 4-liter bag of warm water to mimic the fetus and simulates kicking movement via a lining of 45 balloons that expand and contract.

Simulating wiggling is more complex: A grid of air actuators exploit a tactile illusion that happens when two vibrating sources placed a distance apart move at the same time. When the two sources vibrate, it triggers a sensation in between the two points. By varying vibrating pairs over time, the simulated fetus seems to squirm.

When the suit is connected to a computer, the software displays a 3D model of the fetus that changes to mimic different stages of pregnancy. The fetus on the screen appears to be in a good mood when a wearer strokes their abdomen and makes steady movements. But if the person moves around vigorously, it will trigger more intense motion.

Although the dress is designed to help men better understand what a woman goes through during pregnancy, a lot of moms like Julie Edwards, a mom of three kids who works as a photographer in La Mesa, Calif., are just a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy bit skeptical.

“I don't think this gives more than a vague idea of what it feels like, and probably makes it seem kinda cool,” she told AOL Weird News.”It is kinda cool, but a hell of a lot of work and discomfort all the same."

Staci Garcia, a PR exec in Boca Raton, Fla., thinks the scientists need to go back to the drawing board before they can say the device truly simulates pregnancy.

“This doesn’t do pregnancy justice because it only shows the man the part that us women actually like: feeling the baby move, knowing it’s alive,” she said. “Take nausea: Are you going to make the men drink sour milk? Wash their hair with vinegar? How do you get them to throw up at the gas station?”

Garcia would like the inventor to install a brick or two to simulate the weight of the baby and the weight gained during pregnancy, and add a “mansiere” stuffed with big water balloons to give the wearer an idea of how it feels to “walk with heavy, sensitive boobs.”

She has other ideas as well.

“When you are walking and sneeze, you pee in your pants,” she said. “Maybe you could insist that men do a daily bladder buster so they know the urgency and need to find a bathroom ASAP!”

Some of Garcia’s “improvements” are more extreme.

“I’d love to see a man experience labor,” she said. “I’d have Hulk Hogan go up and squeeze him as hard as possible for about a minute every two minutes for 10 hours. No food or drink.”

Andrea Narducci, a registered nurse in Austin, Tex., who helps deliver babies, sees some value in the device.

I do like the idea of the balloons simulating a squirming infant," she said. "This is the best part of being pregnant -- feeling the baby move, in my humble opinion. It's very cool that something could simulate that for the man. There are other things I won't go into that the device doesn't address, such as growing, leaking breasts, spotting, wondering if your water broke, etc.

The real work is delivering the infant, which is not possible to simulate with this apparatus. If there were a way to help the man understand what the cramping and back pain of early labor is like, progressing to the intense uterine contractions, through an hour of pushing the infant through what is normally a very small, muscular opening -- now that would be something women would be giving positive feedback on, and probably purchasing!

Melissa Williams, an HR recruiter in Houston, is another mom who think the device needs work before it will come close to simulating her pregnancy.

"My 14-year-old daughter weighed 11 pounds, four ounces at birth," she said.

Williams said the scientists won’t really have a device that truly duplicates pregnancy until “you can remove the man’s bladder and squeeze it while another man gets upset when they need to go to the restroom.”

On the other hand, she wonders if there really is a need for this product.

“Seriously are there a bunch of men lined up somewhere complaining ‘If only I could feel pregnant'?” she asked rhetorically. “For some reason, I can’t imagine men wanting to be pregnant, since they are totally OK with actually sleeping through the night.”