The role of body dissatisfaction and self-compassion in pregnancy-related anxiety

Rachel Dryer, Priscilla Chee, Robyn Brunton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BackgroundWomen undergo significant physical, physiological, and psychological changes during pregnancy. They are also exposed to sociocultural pressure to meet appearance-related ideals. These pregnancy-related changes and sociocultural appearance-related pressures may place pregnant women at greater vulnerability to developing body dissatisfaction and psychological distress. To date, however, little is known about how sociocultural pressure may influence pregnancy-related anxiety, or factors that may protect against such distress during pregnancy. This study examined whether body dissatisfaction mediated the relationship between appearance-related sociocultural pressure and pregnancy-related anxiety, and whether this relationship was moderated by self-compassion and/or self-criticism.MethodA cross-sectional sample of 253 pregnant women (Mage = 26.28, SDage = 4.43) completed an online questionnaire measuring sociocultural pressure, body dissatisfaction, pregnancy-related anxiety, and self-compassion.ResultsModerated mediation analyses revealed body dissatisfaction fully mediated the relationship between sociocultural pressure and pregnancy-related anxiety. Analyses confirmed the moderating role of self-compassion and self-criticism on the relationship between sociocultural pressure and body dissatisfaction, but not on the relationship between body dissatisfaction and pregnancy-related anxiety.LimitationsThe cross-sectional nature of this study limits confirmation of the direction of relationships between sociocultural pressure, body dissatisfaction and pregnancy-related anxiety.ConclusionsWhile the findings of this study need to be replicated in prospective and longitudinal studies, they suggest that sociocultural pressure to meet appearance-related standards contribute to body dissatisfaction, which in turn may facilitate pregnancy-related anxiety. Self-compassion may protect the body image of pregnant women against negative effects of appearance-related sociocultural pressure.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Jun 2022


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