Women's Self-Objectification During Pregnancy and Post-Partum, and Its Impact on Maternal Mental Health

Kathryn M Rizzo, Pace University


Fredrickson and Roberts' (1997) Objectification Theory suggests that women are viewed in society as objects whose worth is based on appearance, and that in turn women learn to self-objectify. Research on non-pregnant individuals indicates that engagement in self-objectification is related to negative mental health outcomes. Pregnancy was previously thought of as a time in which women were freed from societal pressures to self-objectify and able to focus on the function of their body rather than its appearance. However, with the recent sexualization of the pregnant body and the emergence of a pregnant beauty ideal in the media, research suggests that women now may continue to sexually self-objectify when pregnant and recently postpartum. The goal of this study was to explore experiences and mental health consequences of self-objectification in pregnancy compared to before and after pregnancy, as well as protective factors. Specifically, this study investigated the degree to which never pregnant, currently pregnant, and recently postpartum women self-objectify; the mental health consequences of self-objectification (i.e., depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and stress); whether self-objectification mediates the association between social media use and mental health outcomes; whether social support moderates associations among social media use, self-objectification, and mental health; and potential differences in self-objectification by age and racial/ethnic identity. Consistent with hypotheses, results suggest that women continue to self-objectify during pregnancy and postpartum, social media use and social support are associated with engagement in self-objectification, and social support buffers against adverse mental health outcomes associated with self-objectification. This study contributes quantitative data to the growing literature on self-objectification in pregnancy and postpartum, and the findings have implications for the development of interventions to support body image and overall well-being for never pregnant, pregnant, and postpartum women. Keywords: motherhood, objectification, post-partum, pregnancy, self-objectification, social media, social support, women

Subject Area

Social research|Mental health

Recommended Citation

Rizzo, Kathryn M, "Women's Self-Objectification During Pregnancy and Post-Partum, and Its Impact on Maternal Mental Health" (2020). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI28391146.



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