Women are increasingly becoming worried about the issues of shape and weight during pregnancy and post birth, partially due to the media's spotlight on celebrity yummy mummies, according to experts.
Psychologist Beth Shelton looked at the attention women knowingly pay to their bodies in pregnancy and post-birth and how this relates to body image as part of her recently completed doctoral thesis at Swinburne University.
"There seem to be strong, unwritten social rules about how much weight one should gain, where on the body it is acceptable and especially about when it should be gone after the baby is born," News.com.au quoted Shelton, as saying.
Shelton conducted an in-depth study of 13 women and their feelings about their bodies. They were interviewed in mid-pregnancy and then again between seven and twelve weeks post-birth.
"For the women in the study, a big tummy and large breasts were okay, even desirable, but weight on any other body parts was often a source of anxiety. Six to eight weeks post-birth was seen as the timeline for 'getting back into my jeans,'" she said.
"These social rules are also evident in the increasing preoccupation of women's magazines with celebrities' pregnancy and post-birth bodies," she added.
Helen Skouteris from Deakin University's School of Psychology has studied hundreds of women through pregnancy and for a year after birth, inspecting body image, depression, and whether pregnant women are comparing their bodies to others.
Dr Skouteris said it's difficult to stay away from media images of celebrities and their baby weight, adding that the trend to have "yummy mummies who look immaculate and amazing through pregnancy" and to boast their pregnant bellies, contributes to body disappointment.
"In the past maternity wear was more about tent dresses that were very comfortable and loose, compared to now when it's tight and close-fitting.
Some women will put on more kilos when pregnant than other women, and you should be mindful of that," Dr Skouteris said.
She added that the link between body dissatisfaction and depression is significant, keeping in mind that one in ten women go through post natal depression.
"If a woman said she wasn't satisfied with her body prior to pregnancy then she's more likely to have body image dissatisfaction during pregnancy. The reality is, the majority of women in our sample are experiencing a level of body dissatisfaction," she said.
Dr Skouteris further explained that women are likely to feel fatter in the early stages of pregnancy, when there's only the small baby bump, than in the later stages when they are much outsized.
But amusingly, she added, women in the later stages also report feeling less attractive.
"All the literature suggests that comparing your physical self to others is a dangerous thing to do (and) comparing your pregnant self to non-pregnant women is diabolical," Dr Skouteris said.