Should pregnant women be allowed to use 'parent and child' car parking spots?

Controversial spots: To park or not to park in pregnancy?
Controversial spots: To park or not to park in pregnancy?  Photo: Getty Images

I am the first to admit that when I was heavily pregnant I used the mother and baby car parking space at the supermarket … probably more than once.  

I was tired, it was hot, and the idea of waddling from the far end of the car park just to get some bread and milk was enough to push away any conscience.  

Luckily, I was never caught. But it wasn't the same story for a couple in the UK last month.

Eight days before she was due to give birth, Asma Mohiuddin, 33, and her husband popped into the supermarket to pick up some nappies and parked in the mother and baby spot. The result? A £70 fine (AU$134).  

"It's mind-boggling that we would get this ticket," Asma told the Daily Mail. "I was quite clearly carrying a child with me: whether she was under my arm or in my womb, it's not up to [the supermarket] to make an arbitrary distinction."

When the couple first disputed the issue, the parking operator refused to withdraw the fine, claiming that the couple was in breach of the advertised terms and conditions. 

However, when their story was published in a local paper, the supermarket apologised for the inconvenience caused and agreed to waive the fee.

Speaking with the paper, Asma's husband Nadeed said it was a "national disgrace" that the conditions for using parent-and-child bays don't extend to pregnant women.

"On public transport, designated seats are provided for the disabled, expectant mothers, and parents with children – there's no distinction between the three," he said. "Someone needs to take the lead on this and set an example … We can be doing a lot more for pregnant women."

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So is he right in this respect? Is it acceptable to use these car parking spots when pregnant, and how many of us have done so?

Tracey Gough, mum to two, says she didn't use them herself when pregnant, but sees nothing wrong with doing so.

"If anyone needs more room to get out of the car, it is a pregnant lady," she says. "Plus, those spots are generally closer to the door so easier for walking purposes for the heavily pregnant."

Zohra Aly says that these spots weren't around when she was pregnant but, had they been, she would have used them.

"I think if you're pregnant and driving around and around the car park looking for a spot and one of these is available, it's okay for you to use it," she says.

And others agree that, in the right situation, these spots should be used – particularly when pregnancy complications affect a woman's ability to walk.

But not everyone agrees. Ella Mayall, mum of one, feels quite strongly that these should be reserved for parents with children only.  

"I didn't use them and don't think you should," she says. "As tough as it is dragging your big pregnant self from the car park a million miles away to the shops, it isn't the same as collapsing/erecting a push chair and juggling a baby and all your baby bits. It's a luxury to have a close, big car park, but not a necessity."

When approached, a Woolworths spokesperson told me that they control relatively few car parks associated with their supermarkets, and that many are owned by shopping centres, councils or others.

"Where we do control the car park, we'd be inclined to take a commonsense approach to the use of parent and baby parks, and would imagine our customers would do the same."

It was much the same response from Coles.

This debate, like many other parenting issues, is sure to continue for years to come. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, it really comes down to a personal viewpoint. 

However, I'm sure we can all agree on one thing: shoppers without children should NEVER use these spots – particularly if they wish to avoid the wrath of a struggling mum with kids in tow.

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