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Belly Piercings Latest Option For Expectant Moms

Misty Harris - 2005-04-18

They say necessity is the mother of invention. But in the case of Denee Forbes, being a mother created the necessity for her invention in the first place.

Forbes is the 27-year-old Rochester, N.Y., founder of Pregnancy Piercings, a line of expanding navel rings that allows hip moms-to-be to bare their belly bling right through the ninth month. Experts say the abdominal adornments are the latest way young women are challenging their parents' model of how expectant mothers should look and behave.

"The world is changing and this is meeting the needs of the next generation," says Forbes, who counts women from Canada , the U.S. , Asia and Europe as clients. "We're not all, you know, matronly mothers who wear muumuus."

Prior to having her first child, Forbes was plagued with skin infections that forced her to re-pierce her belly button three times. So when she got pregnant at 24, the last thing she wanted was to get another scar from removing her navel ring.

Leaving it in, however, meant risking the inflexible metal barbell cutting through her skin as her belly grew - the main reason doctors warn against piercings during pregnancy.

"I was determined to keep it in." recalls Forbes. "When you're pregnant, you feel unattractive, you're getting fat, and having to remove your piercing makes you feel even worse."

After coming up empty-handed at maternity and piercing stores, Forbes realized she would have to create her own solution to the problem. By pairing biocompatible medical-grade tubing commonly used for blood drainage in open-heart surgery with two end-balls to cap the openings, she successfully designed a navel ring that changes shape as a woman's stomach expands.

A year later, was born.

"When I first started, I was selling maybe one or two a week," says Forbes. "Now it's like hundreds a month. And every month, it seems sales have doubled in growth."

According to a senior consumer analyst at Iconoculture, a Minnesota-based trend research firm, the cult demand for pregnancy piercings is part of a larger cultural shift.

"The thing to really understand is that this self-expression and identity has been so important to Gen X mothers," says Ken Olson. "And with the openness of the upcoming millennial generation toward sexuality ... I would expect this trend to continue."

The catalyst for what he calls the "moms can be sexy" movement was Demi Moore's infamous 1991 Vanity Fair cover photo, in which the actress posed nude while pregnant. Since then, Olson says, young moms have been trying to strike a balance between maternity and sexual identity through their choice of clothes, lingerie, habits and now accoutrements.

"It's saying, 'Yes I'm pregnant, yes I'm entering this new role or new phase, but that doesn't mean I have to give up my piercing.'" she explains, adding that "taking care of yourself and feeling like you're holding onto your identity and unique sense of self-expression is actually good for your kids."