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Abstract

Much research has found that exposure to certain types of media portrayals of women can be related to body image concerns among women. The current paper focuses on the impact of certain messages on pregnant and postpartum women. These women are rarely examined in a media research context but are particularly vulnerable to body image concerns. This experimental study involved 192 pregnant or postpartum women who read a magazine containing glamorized media portrayals of pregnant/postpartum women or a control magazine. Pregnant women reported lower body image after only five minutes of exposure to the magazine with pregnant/postpartum women compared to the control group. There was no immediate effect on postpartum women. Implications for the media industry, health professionals, and women are discussed.
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ISSN: 1041-0236 (Print) 1532-7027 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/hhth20
The Effect of Media on Body Image in Pregnant
and Postpartum Women
Sarah M. Coyne, Toni Liechty, Kevin M. Collier, Aubrey D. Sharp, Emilie J.
Davis & Savannah L. Kroff
To cite this article: Sarah M. Coyne, Toni Liechty, Kevin M. Collier, Aubrey D. Sharp, Emilie J.
Davis & Savannah L. Kroff (2017): The Effect of Media on Body Image in Pregnant and Postpartum
Women, Health Communication, DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1314853
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2017.1314853
Published online: 08 May 2017.
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The Effect of Media on Body Image in Pregnant and Postpartum Women
Sarah M. Coyne
a
, Toni Liechty
b
, Kevin M. Collier
a
, Aubrey D. Sharp
a
, Emilie J. Davis
a
, and Savannah L. Kroff
a
a
School of Family Life, Brigham Young University;
b
Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
ABSTRACT
Much research has found that exposure to certain types of media portrayals of women can be related to
body image concerns among women. The current paper focuses on the impact of certain messages on
pregnant and postpartum women. These women are rarely examined in a media research context but
are particularly vulnerable to body image concerns. This experimental study involved 192 pregnant or
postpartum women who read a magazine containing glamorized media portrayals of pregnant/post-
partum women or a control magazine. Pregnant women reported lower body image after only five
minutes of exposure to the magazine with pregnant/postpartum women compared to the control
group. There was no immediate effect on postpartum women. Implications for the media industry,
health professionals, and women are discussed.
Exposure to thin-idealor sexualized portrayals of
womeninthemediahasbeenshowntoinfluencebody
image, self-esteem, eating behaviors and beliefs, and eating
disorders in women (e.g., Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008).
However, little research has examined the influence of
media during the perinatal period (the period encompass-
ing pregnancy and the first year postpartum). This period
represents a particularly vulnerable time regarding body
image and negative outcomes of poor body image for
women (e.g., Liechty & Yarnal, 2010), which can have
health implications for both mother and baby.
Accordingly, additional research is needed to examine
howexposuretovariousmediamessagesinfluencesbody
image (defined here as a self-evaluation of onesbody
and appearance)forwomenduringtheperinatalperiod
(Tremblay, Lovsin, Zecevic, & Lariviere, 2011).
Body Image in the Perinatal Period
Women experience dramatic physical changes in the perinatal
period, which may impact body image during pregnancy or in
the future (e.g., Liechty & Yarnal, 2010). Body image refers to
feelings, attitudes, and evaluations of ones own body that
include perceptions of the body as a whole as well as percep-
tions regarding specific areas of the body (Grogan, 2008).
Poor body image is of particular concern during the perinatal
period because it has been connected with a host of negative
outcomes such as increased risk of depression and decreased
perceptions of overall well-being (e.g., DiPietro, Millet,
Costigan, Gurewitsch, & Caulfield, 2003). Women with poor
body image also have a higher tendency toward unhealthy
dieting and smoking during pregnancy, which increases
health risks for both mother and baby (Duncombe,
Wertheim, Skouteris, Paxton, & Kelly, 2008).
Existing research has produced inconsistent findings
regarding the nature of body image concerns during the
perinatal period (Tiggemann, 2004). Some research has sug-
gested that body image concerns may increase during this
time(Clark,Skouteris,Wertheim,Paxton,&Milgrom,2009;
Rallis, Skouteris, Wertheim, & Paxton, 2007;Skouteris,Carr,
Wertheim, Paxton, & Duncombe, 2005), and other research
has suggested that pregnant women experience improved
body image when compared with their prepregnancy body
image (Loth, Bauer, Wall, Berge, & Neumark-Sztainer,
2011).Thedifficultyinunderstandingbodyimageacross
theperinatalperiodmaybedue,inpart,tothevastnumber
of factors that influence body image. Skouteris and collea-
gues (2005) found that a number of social and psychological
factors including depression, social comparisons with others,
and perceived societal pressures to be thin were all predic-
tors of body image concerns during pregnancy. The current
study focuses on media portrayals of women as a social
factor that may influence body image during the perinatal
period.
Media and Women
Portrayals of Women in Media
A host of recent studies has found that women are misrepre-
sented in a number of ways in the media. For example, the
journal Sex Roles devoted two special issues to examining how
women are portrayed in the media (Rudy, Popova, & Linz,
2010,2011). A compilation of 20 content analyses revealed
that women are typically underrepresented in the media (in
terms of frequency as compared to men), are often sexualized
either by dress or by body language, and are often shown in
CONTACT Sarah M. Coyne smcoyne@byu.edu School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, JFSB 2087, Provo, UT 84602.
HEALTH COMMUNICATION
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2017.1314853
© 2017 Taylor & Francis
subordinate roles. Furthermore, in the United States, depic-
tions of women in the media often reinforce traditional gen-
der stereotypes for women and an unrealistic ideal of
womens bodies (e.g., Collins, 2011).
Effects of Media on Women
Women are likely to internalize the thin-ideal portrayed in the
media, which overrepresents and glorifies a very thin body
type (e.g., Zhang, Dixon, & Conrad, 2010). Most women do
not meet this thin-ideal, and a number of studies have found
that exposure to such images can be detrimental to womens
physical and mental health (e.g., Grabe et al., 2008). Exposure
to thin-ideal media is thought to promote poor body image as
women compare their own bodily appearance to that of
unrealistic images, which in turn may lead to a host of
negative outcomes (Harper & Tiggemann, 2008). Multiple
meta-analyses have found that exposure to thin-ideal media
was associated with poor body image, poor self-esteem,
depression, and increased dieting and propensity toward eat-
ing disorders (e.g., Grabe et al., 2008). Indeed, Nash (2012)
has argued that media obsession with celebrity culture has
increased pressure for women to remain slim during preg-
nancy. Similarly, a recent study found that viewing media
depictions of recently postpartum celebrities had a negative
impact on the body image of never-pregnant women (Hopper
& Aubrey, 2016). To date, however, little research has
explored the connection between media and body image
among pregnant and postpartum women.
Media and the Perinatal Period
Portrayals of the Perinatal Period in Media
Although the media are replete with unrealistic portrayals of
pregnant women most research examining portrayals of preg-
nant and postpartum women focus on the capability of the
womans body to give birth (Morris & McInerney, 2010)orto
breastfeed (Foss & Southwell, 2006). Other studies examine
internet and reality television as a source of information for
expecting mothers (Theroux, 2011). Regardless of the lack of
research, one does not need to look far to see pregnant women
in the media. For example, Vogue, Vanity Fair, W, Marie
Claire, Life & Style, Bazaar,andElle magazines have all pub-
lished cover photos of pregnant celebrities in the nude (Nash,
2012). However, none of these or the many images portrayed in
the media are particularly realistic. Typical images portray these
women as having flawless skin and makeup, and many photos
are digitally altered to decrease body fat or remove stretch
marks due to pregnancy (e.g., Kourtney, 2010). One content
analysis found that celebrity magazines do show pictures of
pregnant women; however, very few articles discussed issues of
weight, shape, or body image (Gow, Lydecker, Lamanna, &
Mazzeo, 2012). Postpartum portrayals in the media are even
less realistic and often stress the importance of returning to
prepregnancy weight (Roth, Homer, & Fenwick, 2012). This is
not the normal pregnancy experience for most women (e.g.,
Loth et al., 2011), and according to social comparison theory,
such images may influence womens perceptions of their own
changing bodies.
The way pregnancy is portrayed in media goes beyond
simple images, though. Other research on reality TV pro-
grams finds that womens bodies are often portrayed as need-
ing serious medical intervention throughout the pregnancy as
opposed to being able to give birth naturally (Morris &
McInerney, 2010). Accordingly, women receive a host of
media messages regarding the perinatal period, from what
they should look like, to how much confidence they should
have in their own body.
Effects of Media during the Perinatal Period
To our knowledge, there are only two studies that have
examined the direct impact of media on body image dur-
ing pregnancy. Sumner, Waller, Killick, and Elstein (1993)
found that viewing nonpregnant fashion models increased
the likelihood that women would overestimate the depth
of their abdomens and body width. Though this study
provides some evidence that media can influence body
perceptions during pregnancy, the study consisted of
only 10 pregnant women and focused only on measurable
body indices. Additionally, Hopper and Aubrey (2011)
examined the effect of exposure to sexualized images of
pregnant celebrities on pregnant womensself-
objectification. Though this study did not directly measure
body image, Hopper and Aubrey found that women were
more likely to describe themselves in terms of their body
after viewing these types of photos. However, no research
to our knowledge has examined the influence of media
(and specifically images portraying the perinatal period)
on pregnant women in terms of their body image.
Furthermore, to our knowledge, no research has examined
how viewing media influences postpartum women, a par-
ticularly vulnerable life stage concerning body image
(Downs,DiNallo,&Kirner,2008).
Theoretical Framework
Social comparison theory would suggest that women are
likely to compare themselves with the media images
around them (e.g., Festinger, 1954; Tiggemann & McGill,
2004). Certainly, the preponderance of thin-ideal images
in the media hardly represents a healthy body type for
pregnant and postpartum women. Accordingly, social
comparison theory might suggest that women who com-
pare themselves to such images may be more dissatisfied
with their bodies, especially as their bodies are rapidly
changing in shape during the perinatal period. This theory
would also suggest that pregnant and postpartum women
would compare themselves to pregnant and postpartum
images found in the media.
Specifically regarding social comparison, the result may
depend on the comparison target (Teeni-Harari & Eyal,
2015). For example, pregnant women who compare them-
selves to similar peers may have less risk of resulting body
image concerns than those who compare themselves to
celebrities. A recent study of Korean women found that
interest in celebritiespostpregnancy bodies was positively
related to social comparison behavior and this linked to
body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness (Chae, 2014).
2S. M. COYNE ET AL.
Although the study did not focus on media consumption
directly, media such as gossip magazines are a common
way for women to learn about celebritiespregnancies and
postpartum weight loss.
Current Study
The purpose of the current study was to examine the impact
of media images of pregnant and postpartum women on body
image of pregnant and postpartum women. We hypothesize
that exposure to portrayals of pregnant and postpartum
women in celebrity magazines will be associated with worse
body image as compared to those reading a control magazine.
Method
Participants
Participants were recruited by fliers in OBGYN and family
doctorsoffices, health centers, grocery stores, around the
university campus, and word of mouth in a city in the
Western United States. To participate, women were required
to be at least 20 weeks along in their pregnancy or between
6 weeks and 9 months postpartum. The reasoning behind
these dates was that we wanted to capture women during a
time when their external body was beginning or continuing to
show the changes of pregnancy and birth (and postpartum
women would have had their 6 week check up with their
doctor by that point). Certainly, womens bodies can show
change much earlier than 20 weeks into their pregnancy and
later than 9 months postpartum; however, we hoped these
cutoff dates would capture the most dramatic external body
changes associated with this period of life.
A power analysis revealed that 208 participants were
needed overall to detect a medium size effect (d=.50)
with 95% power. We screened women for depression and
eating disorders for eligibility in the study (see measures
section for a full description of this process). Before
screening, 212 women were involved in the study.
Depression and eating disorder screening resulted in 20
women being dropped from the study. After screening,
there were 192 participants who completed the full study
(Mage = 25.69 years, SD = 3.73, age range 2041 years
old), 96 women in each condition. There were 104 preg-
nant women (Mweeks pregnant = 28.82, SD = 6.03,
range = 2038 weeks pregnant) and 88 postpartum
women (Mweeks postpartum = 14.31, SD = 4.78,
range = 626 weeks). Approximately 57% of women
were in their first pregnancy or had only one child. The
other 43% of women had multiple children or were in
subsequent pregnancies (range for this group was 26
children/pregnancies, M=2.77, SD = .96). Just over 75%
of participants were Caucasian, nearly 10% were Hispanic,
and the other participants reported being multiethnic or a
variety of other ethnicities. All participants were probed
for suspicion after the study. This was done by interview-
ing each participant at the end of the study, asking their
general thoughts on their study and what they felt that the
researchers were expecting to find. This process resulted
in three women being dropped from the study after
expressing suspicion as to the real purpose of the study.
Measures and Materials
Magazines
There were two conditions in the studyacelebrity magazine
and a control (home improvement). The two magazines were
based on existing magazines but were pieced together for the
current study. We partitioned off a section of 10 pages in each
magazine that the participant would read. All other parts of
the magazine were sealed shut so they would be unable to
read other content. Both the celebrity and control magazine
had covers from current popular magazines (i.e., People and
Better Homes and Gardens). The 10 pages in each magazine
were nearly identical. We chose advertisements and an article
on home décor (from Better Homes and Gardens) that would
logically fit in both magazines.
There were only two pages that were different across the
two conditions. In the celebrity magazine, we created pages
called Hollywood Moms,using real articles from a popular
celebrity magazine. On the top of the page was an article titled
Her Belly Dont LieShakira is Pregnantalong with a
seminude pregnant picture of Shakira. At the time of the
study, Shakira had just announced her second pregnancy, so
the article and picture appeared current and realistic. On the
bottom of the page was an article titled Amazing Post-Baby
Bikini Bodies: See the Stars Whove Bounced Back Months
after Giving Birth.There were also four pictures of celebrities
in bikinis who had all been featured in celebrity magazines in
similar articles. The next page was titled Mini-Celebrityand
featured pictures of celebrity babies, a common occurrence in
celebrity magazines. Conversely, the home improvement
magazine featured an extra story on home décor (using fruit
in decorating) for the extra two pages. All pages were in the
same order in both magazines, with the two target pages being
right in the middle of the pages. Care was taken to not show
any other examples of the thin-ideal in any other advertise-
ments or articles.
Screening Measures
In order to reduce risk, women also completed two screening
questionnaires to screen out participants with particularly
high levels of depression or experience with eating disorders.
Excluded participants (n= 20) were given a full debrief,
compensated, and were provided with a resource pack which
included contact details for health and counseling services.
These two scales were also used as control variables in the
main analyses.
Depression. Depression was measured using the Edinburgh
Postnatal Depression Scale (Cox, Holden, & Sagovsky, 1987)
which is one of the most widely used measures of postnatal
depression. This has also been shown to be effective during
pregnancy. The scale included 10 items (e.g., I have felt sad
or miserable) and was rated on a 4-point Likert scale (e.g.,
1=No, not at all to 4 = Yes, most of the time). Items were
summed, and any participant scoring over 20 was excluded
from the study.
HEALTH COMMUNICATION 3
Eating disorders. Eating disorders were measured using a
four-item screening measure shown to also be effective during
the pregnant and postpartum period (e.g., Do you ever eat in
secret?; Cotton, Ball, & Robinson, 2003). Participants were
instructed to circle either yesor nofor each item, and
participants answering yesto at least two items were
excluded from the study.
Body Image
This was measured using three items from the Body Esteem
Scale for Adolescents and Adults-MODIFIED (Mendelson,
Mendelson, & White, 2001). Participants were asked to indi-
cate how much they agreed with a number of statements (i.e.,
I like what I see when I look in the mirror,”“I wish I looked
better,and My looks upset me) using a 5-point Likert-type
scale (1 = never to 5 = always). Scores were reversed where
appropriate, collated, and averaged across the three items.
Higher scores indicate more positive body image.
Cronbachs alpha was acceptable, α= .70. The full scale was
not used due to maintaining deception in the experimental
design. Participant report of body image would be biased if
participants knew that this was a study on body image;
accordingly, a reduced version of the scale was used, though
notably still showed acceptable reliability.
Media Consumption
Participants were asked how frequently they viewed television
and movies and read celebrity magazines on a daily basis,
using a 6-point Likert scale (1 = none to 6 = more than
3 hours). These were used as control variables in the study,
as general time spent viewing television and movies have been
found to be related to body image. We also wanted to covary
out any previous exposure to celebrity magazines to isolate
effects in the current study.
Procedure
Part 1
There were two parts to the study. In Part 1, participants were
told that they were being recruited to take part in a study on
Mommy Brain(i.e., memory loss during pregnancy), which
would consist of a study on how different factors influence
memory during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Upon
signing up, participants received an online questionnaire.
They first completed a variety of screening measures (see
above) and then completed a number of filler questionnaires
on their pregnancy, health, memory, media use, parental
efficacy, and more. They also completed a short measure of
body image as described previously. We did not give them a
lengthy measure on body image as we did not want to arouse
suspicion in participants as to the true nature of the study. To
maintain deception, periodically throughout the question-
naires, we would ask them random questions to test their
memory(e.g., what were the response options in the pre-
vious questionnaire?). Upon completion of the question-
naires, participants were directed to a link to sign up for
Part 2 the next week.
Part 2
Part 2 took place in a quiet laboratory room on campus.
Participants were reminded of the purpose of the study
(memory during pregnancy) and were told that they would
next read one of the six different magazines and then be tested
on the contents. They were shown a table with six different
magazines (celebrity, home improvement, parenting, reli-
gious, science, and sports). In reality, we only had participants
read one of the two different magazinesa celebrity one or a
home improvement one, as described earlier. Participants
rolled a die to see what magazine they would be assigned to
read, thinking that each number corresponded to one of the
six magazines. In reality, the condition of magazine was
chosen previously by using a randomization table with odd
numbers indicating the celebrity magazine and even numbers
indicating the control magazine (Harris, 2008). By using a
randomization table, each participant had an equal chance of
being chosen for either condition.
Participants were given the magazine and were asked to
study it for five minutes and reminded to pay attention
because they would be tested on the content later. After five
minutes, the research assistant took the magazine away and
told the participant that she would be given a distractor task
before the memory test. Participants were asked to give their
full attention to these questions. This task involved a 30-item
questionnaire asking questions about random topics (e.g., I
like napping in the afternoon), which also included the three
body image questions described earlier. After the distractor
task, participants were given a fake memory test that tested
their recall of various content from the magazine, which
included asking them if they saw the page with the pregnant
and postpartum celebrities. This served as a manipulation
check and 100% of participants in the celebrity condition
reported seeing this page. Finally, participants were probed
for suspicion, fully debriefed, and were given $40 and a baby
onesie showing the local university mascot.
Results
Preliminary Testing
All data were initially screened to check for linearity, univari-
ate, and multivariate outliers, homogeneity of covariance
matrices, multicollinearity, and normality with all assump-
tions being met. A multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA) was conducted to examine any condition or
pregnancy status differences on the major variables (e.g.,
body image) during Part 1. There were no significant differ-
ences on any variable across condition, F(4, 182) = 2.26,
p> .05 or pregnancy status, F(4, 182) = 2.04, p> .05, at the
initial time point.
Main Analysis
A 2 (pregnancy status) X 2 (condition) analysis of covariance
(ANCOVA) was conducted to examine the effect of condition
on body image during Part 2. Control variables included prior
body image, amount of television and movies viewed, time
spent reading celebrity magazines, depression, eating disorder
4S. M. COYNE ET AL.
tendencies, number of weeks pregnant or postpartum, and
whether they had read either magazine before. The purpose
of including these variables was to control for factors that
have been shown to be related to current body image for
women (e.g., Rallis et al., 2007). The ANCOVA revealed a
nonsignificant main effect of condition, F(1, 177) = .01,
p> .05, and pregnancy status, F(1, 177) = .50, p> .05.
However, there was a significant interaction between condi-
tion and pregnancy status, F(1, 177) = 3.76, p= .05. Post hoc
testing revealed that pregnant participants reported signifi-
cantly worse body image after viewing the celebrity magazine
(M= 3.23, SD = .72) as compared to those reading the control
magazine (M= 3.48, SD = .54), t(102) = 1.99, p< .05, d= .39.
There was no difference in condition for postpartum women,
(celebrity: M= 3.23, SD = .76; control: M= 3.03, SD = .79,
t(85) = 1.12, p> .05). Covariates were mostly nonsignificant
with the exception of body image at Time 1, which was a
strong and significant predictor of body image at Time 2,
F(1, 177) = 17.16, p> .001.
Discussion
During the perinatal period, women experience dramatic
physical changes that may influence their body image.
Results from the current study revealed that pregnant
women report lower levels of body image than control parti-
cipants after exposure to only five minutes of portrayals of
pregnancy and the postpartum period in celebrity magazines.
This partially confirms our hypothesis and contributes to the
research on media and body image in nonpregnant women
(e.g., Hopper & Aubrey, 2016; Stronge et al., 2015). Though
the strength of the results was only small to moderate, this
study has implications for the media, health professionals, and
pregnant women, themselves.
These findings are generally consistent with the tenets of
social comparison theory. According to this theory, indivi-
duals naturally compare their bodies with those they view as
similar to themselvesin this case other pregnant women as
portrayed in magazines. Given the unrealistic way that preg-
nant women are often portrayed in these outlets (e.g., Gow
et al., 2012), women likely made upward social comparisons,
which tend to be related to negative outcomes. It is also
possible that exposure to these types of images contributed
to the participantsself-objectifying their pregnant bodies,
which may have led to poorer body image (Hopper &
Aubrey, 2011), especially in Caucasian women. Since social
comparison theory posits that individuals compare themselves
to those they view similar to themselves, it is important to
note that the celebrities featured in our magazines were
upper-class Caucasian women. Because 75% of women
included in this study were Caucasian, the majority of the
women included would hypothetically be even more likely to
make upward social comparisons. More research is needed to
truly examine the effect of pregnant celebrity images on
women from a variety of demographics.
Notably, there were no differences in condition for postpar-
tum women in the current study. This is not to say that media
do not influence postpartum women; much research has found
that general portrayals of the thin-ideal influence women of
different ages, many of whom would have had children (e.g.,
Holmstom, 2004). However, we exposed women to only five
minutes of media in the current study. Even though this small
period of exposure was enough to influence body image in
pregnant women, it may be that postpartum women are influ-
enced at longer periods of time. Future research could examine
how longer media exposure times influence subsequent body
image during the postpartum period. Furthermore, the current
experimental study examined only the immediate impact of
media on body image. Future longitudinal research could exam-
ine how a steady diet of media use may influence body image
across the prepregnancy, pregnancy, and postpartum periods
for women.
Implications
These results have a number of implications for pregnant
women. The perinatal period is a time to celebrate the preg-
nant body and embrace the stretch marks, sagging skin, and
other marks of motherhood. Though it is unrealistic to try to
completely change the way media portrays pregnancy, there
are other positive methods that can be used to help women in
a social climate where even pregnant bodies are objectified.
One method to try to negate these effects would be to
educate health professionals about body image issues in preg-
nant women. Obstetricians could use the same sorts of prac-
tices as Abraham (2003) suggested to avoid body image
concerns in pregnancy, including discussion of healthy eating,
exercising behavior and attitudes, while maintaining knowl-
edge of possible risks and triggers when engaging in these
discussions. Similar practices should be used by obstetricians
in order to avoid body image concerns in the perinatal period.
Further, health professionals could offer women materials
on becoming critical viewers of media and rejecting unrealis-
tic images of pregnant and postpartum women in the media.
Research suggests that being skeptical of media messages is
associated with positive body image and can act as a buffer
against negative body image outcomes (Pope, Corona, &
Belgrave, 2014); however, critical viewing of media during
the perinatal period has not yet been examined. Instruction
in critical viewing of the media may be a beneficial addition to
formal prenatal courses offered by hospitals or communities.
This instruction could focus on educating women on general
portrayals of pregnant and postpartum women in the media,
whether these representations are realistic, how viewing these
images make women feel about their own bodies, and how to
maintain a healthy view of ones body during this time period.
While pregnancy and the bodily changes which accompany
it should be honored, this study has demonstrated that media
depictions of pregnancy influence women to, at least momen-
tarily, overlook the celebratory changes, and feel worse about
their bodies. Thus, such media messages can reduce women to
feel like they are defined by their bodies alone. As has been
previously demonstrated in other communities, when an indi-
vidual is reduced to being defined by his or her body, that
person does not always receive the legal rights and benefits he
or she deserves. For an already vulnerable population in need
of legal protection for rights and conveniences such as mater-
nity leave, additional welfare availability, and breastfeeding in
HEALTH COMMUNICATION 5
public, if this reduction becomes culturally pervasive, pregnant
and postpartum women may no longer be perceived as equal
members of society, deserving of such rights and conveniences.
Limitations and Conclusions
The results of the current study highlight the need to better
understand the impact of media messages on the body
image of women during the perinatal period, a topic that
has received little attention in the literature. Future research
should continue to explore the nuances of this relationship.
Though the study had a number of strengths, including a
multimethod design and a relatively large sample, there
were a number of limitations. Most participants were
White and relatively young. As research suggests that age
and race/ethnicity play an important role in body image
(Gjerdingen et al., 2009; Hesse-Biber, Livingstone,
Ramirez, Barko, & Johnson, 2010; Tiggemann, 2004), future
research into media and body image during the perinatal
period should address these variables. Furthermore, in the
current study, women with clinical levels of depression or
disordered eating were excluded (due to ethical issues). As
research suggests that these conditions could exacerbate the
impact of media messages on body image, future research
should consider including these groups, perhaps using a
modified methodology. We suspect that women who cur-
rently have or have had an eating disorder or who have
extensive preexisting body image concerns may be the most
vulnerable to media effects.
Additionally, there are a number of moderators and
mediators of the relationship between media and body
image, such as thin-ideal internalization or level of social
comparison that could be examined in future research. One
other limitation was the use of three body image items, as
opposed to the entire scale. Early testing revealed that using
the entire scale resulted in a high number of participants
dismissing our cover story and guessing the study was on
media and body image. Accordingly, the use of a smaller
number of items allowed us to maintain the study decep-
tion and obtain a more accurate sense of body image.
Finally, as the research suggested, there may be differences
between pregnant and postpartum women and media mes-
sages about pregnancy and the postpartum period; future
research should consider separating these groups/messages
to identify the unique impact of the specific message on the
specific group.
In sum, this study examined media influences on body
image during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Our
experimental study revealed that pregnant women felt worse
about their bodies after only five minutes of exposure to
typical media portrayals of this period. We hope that media
producers, health providers, communities, and women will
come together to educate women and healthcare professionals
about and address the pervasive messages regarding preg-
nancy and body image in our media culture.
Funding
We appreciate the generous funding from a Mentored Environment
Grant (MEG) from Brigham Young University that helped with the
financial costs of the study.
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HEALTH COMMUNICATION 7
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... [103][104][105] The social construction(s) surrounding sexual attractiveness, gender, traditionally feminine notions of sexuality, and the sexual body in uences the body image, self-image, and sexual health of mothers. [106,107] Sexual health knowledge during pregnancy impacts the sexual attitudes of women in the postpartum period. For example, knowledge de cits about sexuality during pregnancy are associated with women reporting reduced desire and negative attitudes about intercourse. ...
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Full-text available
Background: Sexual health is a multidimensional phenomenon constructed by personal, social, and cultural factors but continues to be studied with a biomedical approach. During the postpartum period, a woman transitions to mother, as well as partner-to-parent and couple-to-family. There are new realities in life in the postpartum period, including household changes and new responsibilities that can impact the quality of sexual health. This phenomenon is understudied especially in the context of Spain. The purpose of this study was to describe the lived experience of postpartum sexual health among primiparous women giving birth in Catalonia (Spain). Methods: This was a phenomenological study with a purposive sample of primiparous women. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews until saturation. Analysis followed Colaizzi's seven-step process with an eighth translation step added to limit cross-cultural threats to validity. Also, the four dimensions of trustworthiness were established through strategies and techniques during data collection and analysis. Results: Ten women were interviewed from which five themes emerged, including: Not feeling ready, inhibiting factors, new reality at home, socio-cultural factors, and the clinician within the health system. Returning to sexual health led women to engage in experiential learning through trial and error. Most participants reported reduced libido, experienced altered body image, and recounted resumption of sexual activity before feeling ready. A common finding was fatigue and feeling overloaded by the demands of the newborn. Partner support was described as essential to returning to a meaningful relationship. Discussions about postpartum sexual health with clinicians were described as taboo, and largely absent from the care model. Conclusion: Evidence-based practices should incorporate the best evidence from research, consider the postpartum sexual health experiences and preferences of the woman, and use clinician expertise in discussions that include the topic of postpartum sexual health to make decisions. As such, human caring practices should be incorporated into clinical guidelines to recognize the preferences of women. Clinicians need to be authentically present, engage in active communication, and individualize their care. More qualitative studies are needed to understand postpartum sexual health in different contexts, cultures, and countries and to identify similarities and differences through meta-synthesis.
... [101][102][103] The social construction(s) surrounding sexual attractiveness, gender, traditionally feminine notions of sexuality, and the sexual body in uences the body image, self-image, and sexual health of mothers. [104,105] Sexual health knowledge during pregnancy impacts the sexual attitudes of women in the postpartum period. For example, knowledge de cits about sexuality during pregnancy are associated with women reporting reduced desire and negative attitudes about intercourse. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Sexual health is a multidimensional phenomenon constructed by personal, social, and cultural factors but continues to be studied with a biomedical approach. During the postpartum period, a woman transitions to mother, as well as partner-to-parent and couple-to-family. There are new realities in life in the postpartum period, including household changes and new responsibilities that can impact the quality of sexual health. This phenomenon is understudied especially in the context of Spain. The purpose of this study was to describe the lived experience of postpartum sexual health among primiparous women giving birth in Catalonia (Spain). Methods: This was a phenomenological study with a purposive sample of primiparous women. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews until saturation. Analysis followed Colaizzi's seven-step process with an eighth translation step added to limit cross-cultural threats to validity. Also, the four dimensions of trustworthiness were established through strategies and techniques during data collection and analysis. Results: Ten women were interviewed from which five themes emerged, including: Not feeling ready, inhibiting factors, new reality at home, socio-cultural factors, and the clinician within the health system. Returning to sexual health led women to engage in experiential learning through trial and error. Most participants reported reduced libido, experienced altered body image, and recounted resumption of sexual activity before feeling ready. A common finding was fatigue and feeling overloaded by the demands of the newborn. Partner support was described as essential to returning to a meaningful relationship. Discussions about postpartum sexual health with clinicians were described as taboo, and largely absent from the care model. Conclusion: Evidence-based practices should incorporate the best evidence from research, consider the postpartum sexual health experiences and preferences of the woman, and use clinician expertise in discussions that include the topic of postpartum sexual health to make decisions. As such, human caring practices should be incorporated into clinical guidelines to recognize the preferences of women. Clinicians need to be authentically present, engage in active communication, and individualize their care. More qualitative studies are needed to understand postpartum sexual health in different contexts, cultures, and countries and to identify similarities and differences through meta-synthesis.
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Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth use social media where they may encounter content promoting appearance ideals or offering more realistic representations of the body during this unique period. To date, little is known regarding the ways in which different social media content may impact the body image and mood of women who are pregnant or postpartum. A sample of 261 participants aged 21–44, mean (SD) age = 31.79 (4.402), were randomly allocated online to view either thin-and-toned ideal or body positive social media content specific to the pregnancy and postpartum period, or a neutral travel condition. Findings revealed that exposure to the body positive images had positive effects on body image relative to the thin-and-toned ideal condition, as well as leading to increases in some indices of positive body image, while the thin-ideal images were harmful. Partial support emerged for the protective roles of body appreciation and low social media-related rumination among women exposed to the thin-and-toned ideal images. Social media content may be harmful or helpful to the body image and mood of pregnant and postpartum women, which is important given the documented relationships between maternal body image, mood, and maternal and infant outcomes.
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This pilot study explored whether focusing on body functionality (i.e., everything the body can do) can protect women from potential harmful effects of exposure to thin-ideal images. Seventy women (Mage = 20.61) completed an assignment wherein they either described the functionality of their body or the routes that they often travel (control). Afterward, participants were exposed to a series of thin-ideal images. Appearance and functionality satisfaction were measured before the assignment; appearance and functionality satisfaction, self-objectification, and body appreciation were measured after exposure. Results showed that participants who focused on body functionality experienced greater functionality satisfaction and body appreciation compared to control participants. Therefore, focusing on body functionality could be a beneficial individual-level technique that women can use to protect and promote a positive body image in the face of thin-ideal images. Research including a condition wherein participants are exposed to (product-only) control images is necessary to draw firmer conclusions.
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The present study investigated the notion that the scrutiny of post-partum celebrity bodies by gossip media reinforces the message to all women that their bodies are vulnerable to close, critical scrutiny and that their value is contingent upon their appearance (e.g., Gentile 2011). Using objectification theory (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997) and the media priming framework (Roskos-Ewoldsen and Roskos-Ewoldsen 2009), the present study examined the impact of depictions of post-partum celebrities on never-pregnant young women. College women (N = 127) were randomly assigned to view full-body images and accompanying photo captions depicting recently post-partum celebrities, headshot-only images and captions depicting the same recently post-partum celebrities, or control images and captions featuring home d,cor and travel destinations. Results revealed that assignment to both the full-body and headshot conditions resulted in higher state self-objectification compared to the control condition. However, those in the headshot condition reported higher body surveillance scores than those in the full-body condition. Results are discussed in light of objectification theory.
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This study comprised a systematic review of literature examining empirical relationships between levels of media literacy and body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. The review aimed to integrate research on this topic. Electronic databases were searched for key concepts: media literacy, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating. Media literacy measures were coded for consistency with media literacy constructs. Sixteen eligible studies were identified. Cross-sectional outcomes depended upon the media literacy construct assessed. Some relationships between high scores on measures consistent with media literacy constructs and low scores on body dissatisfaction and related attitudes were found. Media literacy-based interventions revealed improvements in media literacy constructs realism scepticism, influence of media, and awareness of media motives for profit, and improvements in body-related variables, but not disordered eating. Further research examining relationships between theoretically driven media literacy constructs and body and eating concerns is needed. Recommendations are made for evaluating media literacy-based eating disorder prevention.
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Objective: poor body image during pregnancy is a growing issue. Similarly, emerging evidence is suggesting that social media use may increase the risk of poor well-being e.g. depression, anxiety and body image concerns amongst users. Research has not examined how social media use may influence women during pregnancy. The aim of this study was to therefore to explore the relationship between body image during pregnancy and Facebook use. Design: a cross sectional self-report questionnaire. Participants: two hundred and sixty nine pregnant women. Setting: community groups and online forums. Measurements: a self-report questionnaire exploring maternal body image, use of Facebook and how mothers perceived Facebook affected their body image. Descriptive statistics were used to explore body image perceptions. Partial correlations (controlling for maternal age, education, parity and gestation) were used to explore the association between Facebook use and body image during pregnancy. Results: negative body image was common in the sample, increased with gestation and was unrelated to pre pregnancy weight. Mothers with a Facebook account had higher body image concerns than those without a Facebook account. Of those with an account, increased Facebook use was associated with increased body image dissatisfaction, particularly in terms of postnatal concerns for how their body would look with 56.5% reporting that they frequently compared their pregnant body to other pregnant women on the site. Facebook access was frequent with 85% of participants checking it at least once per day and the average participant spending over an hour per day on the site. Key conclusion: although causality cannot be fully explained, Facebook use may increase mother's risk of poor body image dissatisfaction during pregnancy. Mothers with already poor body image may also be drawn to the site in order to make comparisons of their appearance. Implications for practice: the potential impact of Facebook on increasing the risk of, or promoting existing poor body image is an important message for those working to support mothers during pregnancy and the postnatal period. Care should be taken when directing mothers to use the site.
Book
Body Image provides a comprehensive summary of research on body image in men, women, and children drawing together research findings from the fields of psychology, sociology, clothing, and gender studies. This third edition has been thoroughly revised and updated to reflect the significant increase in research on body image since the previous edition, as well as the significant cultural changes in how men's and women's bodies are viewed. Data are also included from interviews and focus groups with men, women, and children who have spoken about their experiences of body image and body dissatisfaction, producing a comprehensive understanding of how men and women construct and understand their bodies in the twenty-first century. The only sole-authored text to provide a comprehensive view of body image research, focusing on men, women, and children, Body Image will be invaluable to students and researchers, as well as practitioners with an interest in body image and how to reduce body dissatisfaction.
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Based on social comparison theory, this study explores how interest in celebrities’ post-baby bodies relates to body image disturbance after childbirth in South Korean women. Previous studies have shown that the media have glamorized celebrities who quickly lose their baby weight. Given the established relationship between thin media images and body image disturbance, the present study investigates whether this relationship, which has been studied mainly in female undergraduates and adolescents in Western countries, might apply to postpartum Korean women. An online survey questionnaire was completed by 345 women, recruited from across the country, who had given birth to a child within one year of the survey date. The results shows that interest in celebrities’ post-pregnancy bodies is positively associated with social comparison behavior (i.e., comparison of their bodies to those of others), which is in turn positively linked to body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness. These two otherwise simple mediation models were differently moderated by public self-consciousness (i.e., the tendency to compare oneself to others). In predicting body dissatisfaction, public self-consciousness moderated the relationship between social comparison behavior and body dissatisfaction. In predicting drive for thinness, public self-consciousness moderated the association between interest in celebrities’ post-baby bodies and social comparison behavior. The findings confirm the effect of media representations of postpartum celebrities as a beauty standard for non-celebrities, and the role played in this process by both actual comparison behavior and the tendency for comparison.
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Body dissatisfaction is often associated with negative psychological functioning, such as depression, and maladaptive behaviors, such as unhealthy eating and extreme weight loss behaviors, which have serious negative implications for women’s health and well-being, and potentially also for the unborn fetus during pregnancy. This article summarizes contemporary research in the area of body image during pregnancy, showing the development of knowledge in this area with increasing research interest in this topic in more recent times.