More than 60% of respondents believe they should be leaner or thinner than their current size, and more than half said other people’s comments about their body or size have an influence on their body image. .
Respondents said the downsides of pursuing an ideal body include poor mental health, disordered eating and exercise habits, loss of time and money, and negative self-talk. .
However, not all respondents reported negative feelings about their body. Some people say pregnancy and childbirth leads to an appreciation of their bodies’ capabilities and helps them focus more on their own health and nutrition.
“During my pregnancy, I started to accept my appearance more and learned to appreciate my body for what it can do, not just how it looks,” said one respondent. .
When it comes to possible solutions, 82% of respondents said they would be interested in a program focused on body acceptance during pregnancy and postpartum. Most prefer virtual interventions, facilitated by experts and conducted in a group.
“I want to talk to other women about how to stay healthy after giving birth but also [how to be] Accept the changes in our bodies and we won’t look the same as we did before pregnancy. ”
Next steps and future research
Vanderkruik said there is currently a lack of intervention programs specifically for pregnant and postpartum subjects.
However, there are evidence-based programs for body acceptance, such as the Body Project, that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of pregnant and postpartum individuals.
Another existing intervention, Project Health, can be tailored to address excessive gestational weight in a way that is also sensitive to bodily dissatisfaction.
Notably, nearly half of the survey respondents who reported their pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) were overweight or obese.
While weight gain is normal during pregnancy, being overweight before pregnancy or gaining excessive weight during pregnancy can also increase health risks for mother and baby.
“There is a tension — we want to prevent any unrealistic expectations of a return to body shape or size of returning to a certain body shape or size soon after,” explains Vanderkruik. born. “At the same time, we also want to support healthy behaviors and healthy lifestyles.”
More research will be needed to address the survey’s limitations and further unravel the complex relationship between weight, body image, and healthy behaviors during pregnancy and postpartum.
“We will need further research on these issues; there are limitations to our survey study, including the assessment of BMI and mental health of self-reported participants, and it is cross-sectional (it only collects data from one point in time), “Vanderkruik said.
“But judging from the responses to the survey research, issues with body image and eating seem to be something that many pregnant and postpartum people care about and care enough about to take the time to complete the survey. without compensation and provide thoughtful information.”
The results were recently published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health.
Vanderkruik, Staff Psychologist and Associate Director of Research and Cognitive Behavioral Science at the Ammon-Pinizzotto Center for Women’s Mental Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, has heard individual reports of body dissatisfaction from the client during her clinical practice.
With the survey, she wants to better understand the scope of the problem and raise awareness of the challenges it creates.
“I think it can be a little embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about body image issues during pregnancy and postpartum,” says Vanderkruik. “There’s still a culture that emphasizes being happy during pregnancy and such.”
“But women’s experiences with their body transformations are very important, and I think there hasn’t always been much of an honest conversation about the impact of that.”