The Boston Herald — July 9, 2007
Wall Street might not be paying attention, but there’s a price war
going on in the pregnancy simulation business. Market-leader
Birthways, Inc., manufacturer of “The Empathy Belly,” recently slashed
its price from $895 to $449 (a nearly 50 percent discount) to remain
competitive with the newest belly on the block, the Pregnancy Profile.
The Empathy Belly claims it has sold 20,000 simulators worldwide since
1990. Realityworks, Inc., which used to be a distributor of The
Empathy Belly, says it has sold about 1,000 Profiles each year since
Both companies will only sell their products to educational
institutions, focusing primarily on childbirth classes, teen pregnancy
prevention and domestic violence programs. Liability issues (the suits
raise blood pressure, restrict breathing and strain backs) take the
costume rental market out of the picture.
In its marketing materials, the Pregnancy Profile tries to be more
inviting to guys with masculine colors and gender-neutral clothing.
The navy blue vest looks more like a flak jacket than a girdle, and
users are encouraged to cover up with a t-shirt instead of the Belly’s
flowing maternity/paternity smock.
The Empathy Belly itself is a strait-jacket of femininity, making you
look like one of those fertility goddesses at the art museum. Or a
well-endowed Chinese restaurant Buddha. In any case, it is impossible
to look like a tough guy wearing either suit.
Both companies aren’t afraid of a little trash talk. Realityworks
slams The Empathy Belly people for having no empathy (if they did,
they might offer padded shoulder straps). Birthways mocks the
Pregnancy Profile’s profile, charging that its “overly rigid vinyl
bladder causes a stiff, angular, unrealistic pregnant abdomen.”
After my Empathy Belly marathon, I slipped into the Pregnancy Profile
for about an hour. The recommended immersion time for both products is
30 minutes, so I’m qualified to make an educated comparison.
Based on the back Velcro straps alone, I give the slight edge to The
Empathy Belly. The Pregnancy Profile’s plastic buckles made me feel
like I was carrying a backpack on my stomach. The Velcro, meanwhile,
made me feel enveloped by the suit. It made me feel, well, “more
— by Darren Garnick
And, lastly, the Herald’s stellar graphic summing up the whole exercise:
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