New report into body image during pregnancy and after birth
2 Jun 2014 02:56 PM
“Women should focus on the joys of being a mother not losing
Becoming a mother is a time of
transition and transformation, yet women face cultural messages about the
importance of getting their bodies back to shape after having a baby, Minister
for Women and Equalities Jenny Willott said today as she welcomes a new report
by Susie Orbach and Holli Rubin.
The report, Two for the Price of One:
The impact of body image during pregnancy and after birth, looks at the
myriad of health and psychological effects that body image can have on pregnant
women and new mothers, and shows how preoccupation with body image problems can
be unconsciously transmitted down to their children. That’s why the role
of midwives and health visitors is important in supporting women’s body
image during this time.
Jenny Willott, today visited the
Royal Free Hospital, where she discussed the research with
There is a relentless pressure
on all women, celebrities or not, to be thin all the time and research shows
mothers who are preoccupied with body image problems are not only damaging
their bodies but these negative attitudes can be passed onto their
It’s sad that women feel
pressured to lose weight so quickly after pregnancy, and it isn’t
healthy. That’s why midwives and health visitors are vital players
here. Pregnancy and the early months after having a baby should be a time when
a women’s focus is on her health and wellbeing, and that of her child,
not losing weight.
A group of midwives, health
visitors, health psychologists and psychotherapists have been meeting for the
last year to discuss possible solutions, and agree that the best way forward is
to raise awareness within the professions, helping each midwife and health
visitor to reflect on the implications for their own practice and to be alert
to the issue when it arises. The Royal College of Midwives, the National
Childbirth Trust and the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors
Association, have all expressed support and we will be working with them to
spread the message within their memberships.
Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive
of Royal College of Midwives said:
This report is very welcome, and
midwives will recognise its core messages. New mothers often feel under
great pressure, and this can surface in feelings that their bodies are a source
of failure or shame. Midwives are there to help, and will want to reflect
on the implications of this report for their own clinical practice. The
RCM is committed to helping that process and has offered its help to the
Government Equalities Office to help raise awareness and understanding within
the midwifery profession.
The NHS has the most incredible
provision of health visitors and midwives helping new mothers to welcome their
babies into the world. Concerns about eating problems and obesity impact on the
precious bond between mothers and their babies, and so we look to our
professionals to help mothers navigate these unwelcome pressures and feel
confident as they feed themselves and their babies.
We learn about love, food,
attachment and how to be in our bodies from our relationship with our mothers.
Helping new mothers feel more confident in their own bodies is the best
anti-viral agent we have for helping babies to grow up feeling good in theirs.
Health visitors and midwives meet women as they enter the most exciting and yet
vulnerable time of their lives and are hugely influential in supporting them
during this time.
New mothers shouldn’t feel
pressured to think, ‘How do I fit back into my skinny jeans’.
Health visitors and midwives are in a prime position to help with this, and
should be supported to do so.
- Read the report, Two for the Price of One:
The impact of body image during pregnancy and after
- The report is based on desk
- The government’s Body Confidence
Campaign continues to work with the media, advertising, retail and
fashion industries to encourage more diverse and realistic representation of
body shapes, sizes, ages and skin colour.
- Susie Orbach is a
psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, writer and social critic.
- Holli Ruben, Msw, MBPsS,
specialising in body image and is a Member of Anybody UK, Endangered