“It’s Just Not Very Realistic”: Perceptions of Media Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Toni Liechty, Sarah M. Coyne, Kevin M. Collier, Aubrey D. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although research has documented a connection between media and body image for women, little research has explored this connection among pregnant or postpartum women. The purpose of this study was to explore women’s perceptions of media and body image during the perinatal period. Fredrickson’s objectification theory provided a theoretical framework for the study. Data collection involved semi-structured in-depth interviews with 50 pregnant or postpartum women in which they were asked to describe their perceptions of media depictions of pregnant or postpartum women and its impact on their body image. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically. Four major themes emerged: (1) participants questioned the realism of media depictions of pregnant and postpartum women, (2) participants described complex reactions to media messages including negative impacts on body image and strategies for mitigating negative impacts, (3) participants desired changes in media messages to be more realistic and to depict a more complex portrayal of the life stage, and (4) participants discussed the unique and complex role of social media including both negative and positive impacts. Implications of the findings for pregnant and postpartum women, communication scholars, and healthcare professionals are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-859
Number of pages9
JournalHealth communication
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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