Speciality: MH Social Worker
Location: North West England
Pregnancy causes a lot of changes in a woman’s body, and while these are common knowledge to the world of medicine, little research has been done on the effect this has on mental health. A new study from the University of York has found that body image during pregnancy could be a key indicator of long-term emotional wellbeing.
Researchers, working with colleagues from Anglia Ruskin University, developed a new test for pregnant women to self-report on the physical aspects of pregnancy. The test, referred to as the BUMPS method, also asks questions about how satisfied subjects are with being pregnant and about their concerns over weight gain.
The test was given to participants at each trimester of their pregnancy, and asked questions on a variety of topics. These included how they felt about not being able to be as physically active as before pregnancy, what clothes they choose to wear, and how they feel about the size of their bump.
After providing over 600 women with this questionnaire, researchers found that women who had a more positive body image during their pregnancy had a higher likelihood of being better at interpreting their body’s signals, as well as having better relationships with their partners and being less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression.
However, lower scores not only increased the chance of experiencing mental distress, they also made it less likely the mothers would have a positive attachment to their child after birth. This could be used to assess expecting mothers to determine whether or not they could benefit from additional care, particularly when it comes to checking for postnatal depression.
Dr Catherine Preston, an expert in body image from the University of York’s Department of Psychology, said: “Women are under constant pressure about their appearance and during pregnancy and after birth is no exception. It is important therefore that pregnancy care is not just about the physical health of the mother and the health of the unborn child, but also about women’s emotional wellbeing.”
Written by Angela Newbury
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