Ahead of the panel, chair Anne McElvoy introduced Meghan as "a royal not afraid to embrace full-on feminism"
Meghan Markle is feeling the “kick” of feminism!
The Duchess of Sussex has been known for cradling her baby bump throughout her pregnancy, but she took the move to a new level at her International Women’s Day panel on Friday while posing for a group photo with singer Annie Lennox, model Adwoa Aboah, former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, journalist Anne McElvoy, Camfed Regional Director Zimbabwe’s Angeline Murimirwa and British campaigner Chrisann Jarrett.
Meghan, who is expecting her first child with Prince Harry in late April, placed one hand on top of her belly and the other hand under, proudly cradling her baby bump.
Ahead of the panel, chair Anne McElvoy introduced Meghan as “a royal not afraid to embrace full-on feminism.”
She then asked Meghan: “How is that bump treating you?”
Meghan candidly replied: “Very well! It’s funny, I’ve actually been joking in the past few weeks…I had seen this documentary on Netflix about feminism and one of the things they said during pregnancy is, ‘I feel the embryonic kicking of feminism.’ “
The crowd laughed as Meghan continued: “I loved that, so boy or girl, or whatever it is, we hope that’s the case.”
Meghan kept her hands close to her belly during the panel, at times resting them on her bump over her black-and-white swirl-printed shift dress with a high collar from the U.K. high street brand Reiss.
The royal mom-to-be, 37, showed off her double bump hold during her surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards in December. She placed her hands over her one-shoulder Givenchy black dress while honor her wedding dress designer – Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of Givenchy – with the British Womenswear Designer of the Year award.
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“I think it shows that she really cares for her baby, and that’s terrific,” Mary Jane Minkin, an obstetrician gynecologist who teaches at Yale University and is part of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, previously told PEOPLE of Meghan’s go-to move.
However, the notion that “bump cradling” is medically beneficial to the child — leading to speculation that Meghan is holding her belly for that reason — is not evidence-based.
“There really isn’t a lot of data showing that touching the belly really calms the baby,” Dr. Minkin says.
Georgia Rose of Village Maternity in New York City, a midwife who had her own practice for over two decades and also taught at her alma mater, Columbia University, added that moms-to-be touching their bellies is a “beautiful thing.”
She notes that studies have shown that babies respond to their mother’s voice while in the womb, and it’s likely that they also acknowledge touch.
Rose also proposes that Meghan may be cradling her stomach unconsciously, just as a mother may pat her child’s head or squeeze their hand while focusing on another task.
“This is a totally normal thing that mothers do, and they do it instinctively and naturally,” she explains.