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Literature reporting body image disturbances across the perinatal period has produced inconsistent findings, owing to the complexity of body image experiences during pregnancy and the first year postpartum. Existing qualitative data might provide potential avenues to advance understanding of pregnancy-related body image experiences and guide future quantitative research. The present systematic review synthesised the findings of 10 qualitative studies exploring the body image experiences of women through the perinatal period, albeit the majority focused only on pregnancy. Themes emerging included malleability of body image ideals across pregnancy (including the shift from aesthetic to functional concerns about one's appearance), the salience of stomach and breasts for self-rated body satisfaction, and perceived pressure to limit weight gain across pregnancy in order to return quickly to pre-pregnancy figure following birth. These qualitative findings suggest greater complexity of body image experiences during perinatal period than can be captured by typically used self-report measures.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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