Japanese Device Lets Men “Test-Drive” Pregnancy

Sep 30, 2011 12:08pm

Think of it like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Junior” – minus Danny DeVito and the mad science.

Japanese researchers have found a way for men to experience the trials of pregnancy, without actually being pregnant.

Introducing the Mommy Tummy: a pregnancy simulator that uses a water pump, vibrator, and four dozen balloons to capture a nine-month experience in a two-minute span.

“The product was inspired by insensitive Japanese men who refused to give up their seats to pregnant women on trains and buses,” said Takayuki Kosaka, with the Kanagawa Institute of Technology.  ”After witnessing that, I decided it was time for men to understand the difficulties associated with having a baby.”

The Mommy Tummy isn’t exactly a pretty sight, but it is as real as a fake pregnancy can get. A water pump slowly injects warm fluid into a plastic bag that is attached to the suit. The “womb” expands with every second, and uses a vibrator that acts as the fetus’s heartbeat.

Nearly 50 different sized balloons inflate and deflate to mimic the kicking or movements of a fetus. Each are attached to a sensor, so the unborn baby reacts to belly rubs and uncomfortable movements, like jumping.

And yes – the breasts do get larger with balloons too.

Strap on the pregnancy simulator, and you can go from normal to full term in just a few minutes. The fetus’s every move and weight is captured on a computer screen, just like a real ultrasound.

“It feels a lot heavier than I expected,” said Yasuhiro Itagaki, as he took the suit for a test-drive. “I thought it would hurt when the baby kicks, but it was really ticklish.”

The simulator has the luxury of leaving out morning sickness, swelling, cravings, and any pain. But Kosaka says the idea is to help men empathize with pregnant women, not discourage couples from having children.

The Mommy Tummy is still a work in progress, but Kosaka hopes to eventually sell the pregnancy simulator as a product.  He believes it will be a helpful tool in reversing Japan’s rapidly declining population, and aging society.

“A lot of Japanese women want to have kids, but don’t feel like they’ll get the support necessary,” Kosaka said. “Once men experience pregnancy, I think they’ll be able to create a comfortable environment that encourages childbearing.”

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