Mothers’ experiences of the relationship between body image and exercise, 0–5 years postpartum: A qualitative study

Anita M. Raspovic, Ivanka Prichard, Zali Yager, Laura M. Hart

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The relationship between body image and exercise in early motherhood is an important yet understudied determinant of mother and infant wellbeing. To address this, we report on a qualitative study of early mothers’ lived experiences of the relationship between body image and exercise in the first five years post-birth. Twenty-one mothers (0–5 years postpartum) completed individual, semi-structured online/phone interviews (M interview time =47.25 min), to elicit narratives about peripartum body image and its relationship with exercise. Thematic analysis was conducted according to the Braun and Clarke framework. Three key themes, and several subthemes, were identified: 1.body image in early motherhood is diverse, dynamic and individual, 2.postpartum exercise forms part of early motherhood adjustment, and 3.body image and exercise form an important, intricate relationship in early motherhood. Women's narratives indicated three body image/exercise patterns, each characterised by different behaviours and motivations. Mothers who reported exercising, or avoiding exercising, for reasons related to body dissatisfaction appeared at greatest risk of negative outcomes from body-related distress and maladaptive exercise patterns. Conversely, mothers reporting higher body appreciation described more adaptive exercise behaviours. This research provides important information for the development of interventions to support positive body image and healthful exercise in early motherhood.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)41-52
    Number of pages12
    JournalBody Image
    Volume35
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

    Keywords

    • Body appreciation
    • Body dissatisfaction
    • Body image
    • Early motherhood
    • Exercise
    • Physical activity
    • Postpartum

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