Pregnancy and Post-Partum Body Positivity

Pregnancy and Post-Partum Body Positivity

Staying plugged in to social media outlets has become a norm in today’s society. There’s no doubt that social media has its perks but it undoubtedly also has its pitfalls. Keeping up to date with news, friends and trends helps us to feel connected in a modern 2017 world. However, there are certain aspects to social media that aren’t so great; “normal” body portrayals being one of them. Body image can be complex and altered by different physiological changes such as hormonal fluctuations relating to pregnancy. Body image refers to “an individual’s feelings, attitudes, and evaluations of his or her body including various aspects of the body (e.g., shape, weight, ability) as well as the body as a whole.”3 Maintaining a healthy and positive body image is hard enough without having to see idealistic images plastered all over social media. It becomes even harder when overloaded with unrealistic images.

Women may be even more prone to setting unrealistic body goals during the time after giving birth. If this is your first child you may be expecting to bounce back right away, with media fostering this message. But how each woman’s body responds after birth is specific to each individual woman.

A recent study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sought out to explore women’s perceptions of media and body image during the perinatal period (time before and after childbirth). Specifically, the study addressed two main research questions:

  1. How do the women view media portrayals of the perinatal period?
  2. How do women perceive the media to impact their body image?

Four main points came to light throughout the study:

  1. Participants questioned the realism of media depictions of pregnant and postpartum women
  2. Participants described complex reactions to media messages including negative impacts on body image and strategies for mitigating negative impacts
  3. Participants desired changes in media messages to be more realistic and to depict a more complex portrayal of the life stage
  4. Participants discussed the unique and complex role of social media including both negative and positive impacts

From the study, 46% of women reported that exposure to unrealistic images and messages elicited an array of negative emotions, such as body self-consciousness, feelings of depression, frustration and hopelessness when they’re unable to lose weight as rapidly after childbirth as celebrities purportedly do.2

More than half (56%) of the participants referenced social media during their interviews and of those nearly half (41%) voiced it as a negative influence.1

Nearly all participants (98%) believed that the media should change in terms of their representation of pregnant and postpartum women with more than half (60%) of the participants citing a desire for more realistic media images of pregnant and postpartum women.1

Although media depictions of the perfect figure may create aspirational images of the ideal postpartum body, you should listen to your body and foster healthy, positive lifestyle choices. It’s important that you stay healthy and happy for your new baby and for yourself. You can choose to let what you see shape how you live your life and the lifestyle choices you make or you can listen to your body and foster healthy and happy choices. It is important not only to ensure your baby is adequately taken care of, but also yourself.

Remember ladies, pregnancy and childbirth is an incredibly special and fleeting period of time. So, treasure this special time, bond with your newborn, and embrace the pregnancy body you have. Every curve tells a story of the journey that brought your bundle of joy into the world, and should be cherished!

REFERENCES: 1. Toni Liechty, Sarah M. Coyne, Kevin M. Collier, Aubrey D. Sharp. “It’s Just Not Very Realistic”: Perceptions of Media Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women. Health Communication, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1315680. 2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Media portrayals of pregnant women, new moms unrealistic.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2017. 3. Grogan, S. (2016). Body image: Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women, and children. New York, NY: Routledge.

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