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Three-fourths of low-income black women are dissatisfied with their body size 6 months after giving birth

Studies suggest that black women tend to have a more positive body image overall than other women. Yet three-fourths of low-income black women are dissatisfied with their body image 6 months after giving birth, according to a new study. Over half of the women (56 percent) thought that they were too large and 20 percent thought they were too small and wanted to gain weight. Body image dissatisfaction is associated with negative self-esteem and depression. All three can be intensified during the postpartum period. In fact, black mothers are twice as likely to suffer from postpartum depression as white mothers, note the Shaw University researchers.

The researchers used a culturally sensitive figure rating scale to examine body perceptions among black women at four inner city clinics at 2 and 6 months postpartum. The scale of nine silhouette drawings was arranged in size from thin to obese. The women were asked which figure represented their current body size, a healthy body size for women their age, which they would prefer to look like, and which figure they thought represented a typical woman their age.

At 6 months postpartum, 79 percent of the women thought that they did not meet what they considered to be a healthy size for women their age. About 40 percent of them thought that they had equaled or exceeded the size of a typical woman their age, which most considered to be larger than their healthy or preferred sizes.

The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13353).

See "Dissatisfaction with body size among low-income postpartum black women," by Josephine Boyington, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., Allan Johnson, Ph.D., L.N. and Lori Carter-Edwards, Ph.D., M.P.H., in the March 2007 Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing 36(2), pp. 144-151.

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