Changes in body image satisfaction during pregnancy: a comparison of high exercising and low exercising women

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2003 Feb;43(1):41-5. doi: 10.1046/j.0004-8666.2003.00016.x.


Objective: This study aimed to compare ratings of body image satisfaction (BIS) from 6 months prepregnancy to 23-30 weeks' gestation for high exercising and low exercising pregnant women. The authors also aimed to assess and compare expectations of BIS for the post-partum period in high and low exercising women.

Design: A partial prospective approach was implemented.

Sample: A total of 71 healthy pregnant women (40 high exercisers and 31 low exercisers) participated.

Methods: Participants completed a series of questionnaires at 15-22 weeks' gestation and 23-30 weeks' gestation.

Main outcome measures: There were two main outcome measures. At 15-22 weeks' gestation there was an exercise inventory and two versions of the Body Cathexis Scale (BCS) (retrospective prepregnancy BIS and current BIS). At 23-30 weeks' gestation there was an exercise inventory and two versions of the BCS (current BIS and projected post-partum BIS).

Results: At 15-22 weeks' gestation, high exercisers demonstrated significantly higher levels of BIS compared to low exercisers. There were no other significant differences between groups. Within groups, high exercisers were significantly more satisfied with their bodies at 15-22 weeks' gestation compared to 6 months prepregnancy, and expected to be less satisfied with their bodies at 6 weeks' post-partum than they were during pregnancy. Low exercisers demonstrated no significant changes over time.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that women are able to assimilate the bodily changes of pregnancy without a negative shift in BIS. However, women who exercise during pregnancy may respond more favourably to changes in their bodies at early pregnancy compared to women who remain sedentary.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy / psychology*