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Women go through several physical and emotional changes during pregnancy and their negative attitude towards body changes during this time can lead to depression after childbirth, suggests a new study.
In the study, published in Psychological Assessment journal, the researchers discovered that pregnant women's feelings about their changing bodies could help predict how well the mother might bond with her unborn baby and her emotional well-being after childbirth.
"Women are under constant pressure about their appearance during pregnancy and after birth," said Catherine Preston, a psychology expert in body image at University of York, England.
"It is important therefore that pregnancy care is not just about the physical health of the mother and the health of the unborn child, but also about women's emotional well-being, which can give us a lot of important information about how they might react to being a new mum in the longer-term."
For the study, the researchers included over 600 pregnant women who were asked about their satisfaction with appearing pregnant, weight gain concerns, and the physical burdens of pregnancy.
The study's findings showed that women who felt more positively about their body changes during pregnancy were more likely to have better relationships with their partners; lower depression and anxiety scores; and were better at interpreting their bodily signals. They also showed a more positive attachment to their unborn child.
Whereas, women who had negative feelings about their appearance during pregnancy needed additional emotional support during pregnancy and also required monitoring after birth for signs of postnatal depression.
"There is growing evidence that women's experience of their body during pregnancy can have a positive or negative impact on both maternal and infant well-being, so more should be done within our care systems to protect women against the more negative effects," suggested Preston.