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The Media as a Source of Weight Stigma for Pregnant and Postpartum Women

The media often contain weight‐stigmatizing material. However, little is known about pregnant and postpartum women’s experiences with media‐based weight stigma.

Published onDec 16, 2020
The Media as a Source of Weight Stigma for Pregnant and Postpartum Women
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Abstract

The media often contain weight‐stigmatizing material. However, little is known about pregnant and postpartum women’s experiences with media‐based weight stigma. Two studies investigated weight stigma in the media from multiple perspectives. Study 1 analyzed open‐response examples of weight‐stigmatizing experiences coming from the media, broadly defined, from 123 pregnant and postpartum women (from a larger sample of 501). Study 2 identified online news‐media articles about pregnancy and weight published during the study 1 data collection period (August to November 2017). Study 1 revealed that weight stigma was common and frequent in media, manifesting across three themes: (1) ideal appearance of pregnant bodies, (2) pressure to quickly “bounce back” after birth to a prepregnancy appearance, and (3) media praising celebrities for achieving either of the previous themes. Study 2 identified 33 articles. A content analysis revealed that women with overweight or obesity were rarely portrayed in images. Additionally, discussion of weight was often negative, focusing on adverse maternal–child health consequences. Finally, media‐communicated ideals for weight and weight loss were often unrealistic and did not reference medical guidelines. This work is the first to document that online news media are a pervasive and potentially distressing source of pregnancy‐related weight stigma, suggesting much‐needed reform in media guidelines.

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Nippert, K. E., Tomiyama, A. J., Smieszek, S. M., & Incollingo Rodriguez, A. C. (2020). The Media as a Source of Weight Stigma for Pregnant and Postpartum Women. Obesity. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.23032.

*denotes a WPI undergraduate student author

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