Positive Body Image and Physical Activity in Pregnant Women
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Generally, research has shown pregnant women have a more negative body image pre-pregnancy and early pregnancy compared to mid-to-late pregnancy. Negative body image in this population has been linked to several important pregnancy-related behaviours and poorer mental health that may put the mother’s and baby’s health at risk. In regards to positive body image, there has been a lack of research investigating how positive body image constructs such as body appreciation and embodiment change, and little work has examined how self-objectification changes. In nonpregnant populations, positive body image has been linked to several health behaviours and outcome; thus, it is important to determine if pregnant women experience positive body image during their pregnancy. In addition, participation in physical activity has been linked to improvements in body image via an increase in embodiment and a decrease in selfobjectification in young adult women. Whether this is true for the pregnant population is unknown. The overall purpose of this study was to understand the relationship between positive body image and physical activity in pregnant women. The first purpose was to determine whether body appreciation, embodiment, and self-objectification levels differ across trimester. The second purpose was to determine if physical activity was associated with body appreciation, and if this relationship was mediated by an increase in embodiment and a decrease in selfobjectification. Thirty-one women in the first trimester, 55 in the second trimester, and 75 in the third trimester completed measures of body appreciation, embodiment, self-objectification, and physical activity online. Multivariate analysis of covariance showed all measures differed by trimester. Post-hoc tests showed body appreciation (M = 3.79; SE = 0.08) and embodiment (M = 2.92; SE = 0.05) were higher and self-objectification (M = 3.86; SE = 0.14) lower in third trimester compared to first trimester (M = 3.37; SE = 0.12; M = 2.56; SE = 0.09; M = 4.54; SE = 0.22). Embodiment was also higher in the third trimester (M = 2.92; SE = 0.05) compared to the second trimester (M = 2.67; SE = 0.06). Serial mediation analysis revealed physical activity was associated with body appreciation through an increase in embodiment and a decrease in self-objectification. The findings from this study indicate positive body image improves across pregnancy and physical activity could be one way to improve positive body image in pregnant women.