Being a woman is one of the most challenging, rewarding, beautiful, tough, and complicated things in the world. And those traits only intensify when a women decides to have children. Because, as all moms know, motherhood is no party. And as intensely wonderful it is, it is also incredibly difficult, emotional, and draining. And even with all the research, stories, and reports of the consequences of motherhood, there is one important side effect of having kids that all women should know, and it's kind of upsetting. According to new research, women who give birth experience significant declines in their self-esteem years after childbirth.
Psychologists with the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands closely examined surveys completed by "84,000 Norwegian women between 1999 and 2008," per Quartz. The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that (perhaps unsurprisingly) women experienced self-esteem loss while pregnant, and then again postpartum. While the research indicated that the participants' self-esteem rose for about six months after giving birth, the rates then dropped again afterwards, continuing to do so for up to three years postpartum.
The negative side effects of pregnancy are well-known to many women, but up until now there hasn't really been any definitive proof that having children takes a significant, emotional toll on women and their minds.
The process of the study was as follows, as Quartz reports:
Women completed surveys at two points during their first pregnancies, and at three points after the birth of their children, with the last being 36 months after birth. Some of the women also completed the same surveys before and after the birth of second, third, and fourth children.
And while the changes in a woman's bodies during and after pregnancy certainly played a role in the self-esteem decline, the research found another factor that might surprise you.
Because it wasn't just self-esteem that researchers inquired about from the participants. The surveys also asked women about their relationships with their romantic partners at the same intervals. And what did they find?
They found that women’s estimation of their romantic partners remained fairly steady during pregnancy, but fell dramatically right after the baby was born. The same effect was also noticeable, to a lesser extent, after subsequent children were born.
So, yeah. Having kids definitely impacts the way women see themselves, but that doesn't mean it's their fault, at all. That's not to say it's the partner's fault either, just that there are so many things women can't control before, during, and after childbirth. And this latest research proves that women who experience a lowered self-esteem after having kids aren't alone. And that's something.