Vehicle engineers are strapping on pregnancy suits in an effort to make cars more comfortable for pregnant women.

Vehicle engineers are strapping on pregnancy suits in an effort to make cars more comfortable for pregnant women.

The reported that the manufacturers are targeting pregnant women as a separate market.

Engineers at Ford are wearing a device called the “Empathy Belly” to work out how pregnant women cope when driving. The device includes breasts, a large water-filled belly, a tight corset that restricts breathing and two 3 kg metal balls that move like a real foetus.

Ford supervisor Jason Glaspell said wearing the suit changed the way he looked at a vehicle. "There were 'aha' moments," Glaspell said. "I became more aware of where the instrument panel controls were placed. I wanted more grab handles to get in and out of the vehicle.

“Other guys wore it and said they began to appreciate how much your body can change when you are pregnant. But after about an hour in the pregnancy suit, we'd all be begging for mercy."

Ford engineers used the suit to develop the Mercury Monterey minivan, which goes on sale in the United States in September.

It features standard adjustable pedals to make it easier for a pregnant woman behind the wheel. The second-row seats fold and tumble forward, while the third-row seat folds flat. An articulating arm lengthens the strap used to pull the third-row seat into the floor to make it easier for pregnant women to use.

Julie Dils, a prototype planning supervisor at Ford, said the suit helped the men realise a lot about pregnant women. "Wearing the suit is an enlightenment," the eight-months-pregnant Dils said. "The men noticed so many things a normal male engineer wouldn't notice. But to make it absolutely realistic, they need to sleep in it."