Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in the perinatal period: an underrecognized high-risk timeframe and the opportunity to intervene

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2022 Aug;25(4):739-751. doi: 10.1007/s00737-022-01236-6. Epub 2022 May 6.


The normal physical changes associated with pregnancy may increase the risk of body dissatisfaction, which is associated with negative mental health outcomes including depression and disordered eating. The purpose of this study was to explore body image and eating concerns among a sample of participants in pregnancy and postpartum and to assess interest and suggestions for a relevant intervention. This was a cross-sectional survey study requiring 10-15 min to complete. Individuals were eligible to participate in the study if they were pregnant or within 1 year postpartum, between the ages of 18 and 45, able to read and write in English, and provided online informed consent. The survey included measures and open-text questions to explore body image, eating behaviors, and related concerns in the perinatal period and to inform the development of an intervention. There were 161 participants, and over 50% were dissatisfied with their body image; 52% were among pregnant participants and 56.2% of postpartum participants. Approximately 80% reported that they would have appreciated the opportunity to participate in a program focused on body acceptance or expectations of body changes in pregnancy and postpartum. We identified intervention preferences as well as commonly reported themes regarding experiences of body image and eating concerns in pregnancy and postpartum. Body dissatisfaction and eating concerns are prevalent issues in pregnancy and postpartum, and our findings underscore an opportunity to tailor an intervention relevant to body image and disordered eating for the perinatal population.

Keywords: Body image; Disordered eating; Intervention planning; Postpartum; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Dissatisfaction*
  • Body Image
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult