The relationship between weight gain in women during and after pregnancy and depression.

Heavier bodies appear to be increasingly problematized and stigmatized globally, especially for women living in advanced economies. These women report feeling chronic pressures to meet ideals of thinness, and they internalize most the harshness of social messages that equate weight with failure, weakness, gluttony, laziness, and other moral failings.

Multiple studies demonstrate that weight stigma is associated with #depression and depressive symptomatology. The period of #pregnancy and postpartum is associated with weight gain which is often permanent.


A study analyzed the relationship between weight gain in women during and after pregnancy and depression. 501 pregnant and postpartum women who had given birth within the previous 12 months in the United States were surveyed between August and November of 2017. Exclusion criteria were pregnant women carrying multiple babies or postpartum women who had delivered more than one baby, as weight gain guidelines and trajectories are different for multiple gestations. Also excluded were pregnant women in their first trimester, as weight gain is not common during this time. Participants were asked questions like: “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?

Overall, 64.9% of the sample reported experiencing weight stigma from at least one source, and 35.1% reported no sources of stigma. For pregnant participants, the number of sources of weight stigma endorsed was significantly associated with greater depressive symptoms, but the average frequency of experiences of weight stigma was not.


For postpartum participants as well, only the number of sources endorsed was significantly positively associated with depressive symptoms. For pregnant participants, the number of sources of weight stigma endorsed was significantly associated with both greater maladaptive dieting behaviour and greater emotional eating behaviour. For postpartum participants, both the number of sources endorsed and the average frequency of experiences were significantly positively associated with maladaptive dieting behaviour, but neither predictor was associated with emotional eating behaviour.


In conclusion, experiencing weight stigma may be associated with various unfavourable maternal health factors among pregnant and postpartum women in a sample of women from around the United States. The implications of weight stigma's associations with depressive symptoms, perceived stress, maladaptive eating behaviour, and postpartum weight retention are worthy for further study. This reflects the powerful negative social meanings of weight gain faced in pregnancy and often unachievable social standards of “dropping the baby weight” as new mothers.

Source: The psychological burden of baby weight: Pregnancy, weight stigma, and maternal health
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