New research finds a direct link between weight shaming and depression in pregnant women. Though gaining weight during pregnancy is necessary for the health and growth of the baby, at times obsessiveness with diet and figure leads to judgments, comments, and can even cause depression.
A new report published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine outlines that a large number of women experience weight-related stigma during pregnancy and postpartum, which further leads to depression, anxiety, unhealthy eating. Knowing our culture, which is so obsessed with looks, body shaming is nothing new. But surprisingly, before this study, not much research had been done on weight stigma during pregnancy.
501 women in the US were surveyed between August and November of 2017, which included 143 pregnant and 358 postpartum women. Only women who were in their second or third trimester and those who had given birth in the last year were studied.
This standard question was asked to all of them: “Since becoming pregnant, have you ever been treated differently because of your weight or has something or someone made you feel bad or uncomfortable because of your weight?” More than 65% of them agreed that they had gone through this stigma.
When asked the source, they spoke about every sphere of social life, including faith community members, office, family, friends, partners, healthcare providers, strangers, media, other mothers, and society in general. The most common response was “society in general.” 14% of respondents said they experience weight stigma from their friends, fellow mothers, and co-workers. 18% experienced it from healthcare providers, 21% dealt with it with their family and strangers, and 25% of respondents said they experienced weight shaming through the media.
Through other questions, the survey also delved into eating behavior and depression. The various insulting comments women receive about their weight often become too much for them to bear. This then leads them to indulge in poor diets and emotional eating.
Sometimes healthcare providers pass comments on their patients’ weight because being overweight can increase complications during pregnancy. However, various research has proven that negative comments on weight do more harm than good – weight shaming causes depression, affects confidence, and brings down moral. Pregnancy itself is a tough phase a woman goes through – her body experiences umpteen hormonal changes causing emotional turmoil.
In most cases, the baby bump starts becoming evident by the second semester, and in spite of knowing it has nothing to do with her pre-pregnancy figure and it’s a natural phenomenon, women tend to become conscious. Their numerous physical changes make them a topic of discussion. According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 14% to 23% of women experience depression during pregnancy – some of them also make suicide attempts.
From this research, it is evident the powerful negative social meanings of weight gain faced in pregnancy or the stress of “dropping the baby weight” on new mothers is prevalent in our society. So, it’s time that people stop advising new mothers or pregnant women on their weight!