A systematic review of influences and outcomes of body image in postpartum via a socioecological framework

Megan Lee*, Kathryn Bolton, Julian Madsen, Karena J. Burke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review


Women in the postpartum period come under multilevel
pressure to return to pre-pregnancy body shape and size. This
pressure can lead to reduced body image satisfaction, self-esteem,
and mood. In this systematic review we explored the influences and
outcomes of body dissatisfaction during the postpartum period.

Four databases were searched using keywords: postpart*
OR postnatal OR peripart* OR ‘new mother’ OR ‘breast feed*’ AND
‘body image’ OR ‘body dissatisf*’ OR ‘body satisf*’ OR ‘body attitude’
OR ‘body shape’.

The influences and outcomes of body image dis/satisfaction
in the postpartum period from 55 international studies were
found to align within four of the five factors of the socioecological
model. Intrapersonal factors: weight and body shape concerns,
mental health and stressors, attitudes and behaviours, and protective
coping skills and interventions. Interpersonal factors: social
support (partner, family, and friends) and sexual functioning.
Institutional factors: experiences with the healthcare system and
returning to work. Societal factors: culture and ethnicity, media
influences and social norms such as the thin ideal.

A focus on intrapersonal factors alone is insufficient
to understand women’s experiences of body dis/satisfaction during
the postpartum period. This suggests a need for better education
and policy practices in pre-natal and postpartum care directed at
body image and education to dispel societal norms such as the thin
ideal. Doing so shifts the focus to include interpersonal, institutional,
and societal influences alongside intrapersonal experiences.
Research is needed to explore the utility and efficacy of broader
approaches for women during this vulnerable life period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-38
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Early online date8 Sept 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sept 2023


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