Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Don’t Worry, Even Experts Think The Media Misrepresents Pregnancy

by Cameron Norsworthy

Looking to make your pre- and postpartum mental health a top priority? You might want to unfollow any and all pregnant or just-pregnant celebrities on Instagram, then. New moms say that the media unrealistically portrays pregnancy and postpartum, a recent study has found. These "idealistic" standards can lead to a slew of consequences for women, including "self-consciousness about their bodies and feelings of depression, frustration and hopelessness when they're unable to lose weight as rapidly after childbirth as celebrities purportedly do." Blame in on FaceTune, access to personal trainers, and surgery, but at the end of the day, the depictions of perfection flooding our screens are definitely taking a heavy toll.

Conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the study utilized "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."

From this, researchers were able to ascertain four key points, the first being that the women were unsure of the actual realities depicted in the media. Secondly, the study's participants expressed that they'd internalized negative feelings as a result of these depictions, but had also developed ways to avoid and/or cope with it. Thirdly, they participants hoped for more realistic portrayals within the media and sought out these portrayals on their own. And lastly, participants discovered that social media had both positive and negative potentials in managing their pre-and postnatal emotional states.

In the period of time before and after a woman gives birth, she's particularly susceptible to damage to her own body image, the study's lead author, Toni Liechty, explained in the published research, according to ScienceDaily. Thus, constant bombardments of perfection are toxic.

But media can have its upside from time to time, too. "These participants felt that they had benefited from being intentional consumers of media — seeking out positive messages and avoiding negative ones," Leichty told ScienceDaily. In actively fighting against the unrealistic standards in a similar, online medium, participants were able to find some solace.

To stay as mentally well as possible, moms and moms-to-be might be better off ignoring and avoiding the media's constant spew of post-baby diets and how-I-got-my-body-back manifestos. The period of time immediately pre and postnatal is especially sensitive, and can lend itself to a host of other mental health complications if not monitored closely. Rather than follow your favorite, picture-perfect icons, it might be best to stick to real people who keep it a little more, well, real.