Weight gained in pregnancy has a negative impact on the self-esteem of 82 per cent of new mums and around a third (31 per cent) feel under pressure to get back to their pre-pregnancy size because of society and the media's obsession with 'ideal weight', a survey has found.
The survey of 1,015 new mums, conducted by Slimming World, looked at the reasons why women decide to lose the weight they gained in pregnancy and the impact this has on their health, self-esteem and families.
Yet while many women feel under pressure to keep up with celebrity mums in the media, the study found that when it comes to making changes to lose weight, internal feelings like wanting to feel better about their size and body shape (22 per cent), increasing self-confidence (19 per cent) and improving health (17 per cent) are far more likely to persuade new mums to start a diet than celebrity culture (one per cent) and social pressure (two per cent).
"In recent years we've noticed a huge increase in the column inches given to celebrity mums who slim back into their pre-pregnancy body only weeks after giving birth," says Carolyn Pallister, Slimming World dietitian and public health manager. "Yet while these celebrity mums are often said to encourage fad diets, our study suggests that in fact they have little influence other than to make women feel guilty and inadequate.
"Rather than going on a diet to keep up with the latest celebrity slimmer, the majority of new mums' priorities are far closer to home - their own health and self-esteem plus that of their family. Some 86 per cent of the mums we polled said they felt that losing weight by making healthy lifestyle changes had resulted in them becoming better parents as they had more energy, a better understanding of healthy eating, more confidence as a parent and felt better able to help the family get active. This is hugely important and shows how important new mums can be in influencing the whole family to have a healthy lifestyle.
"Losing weight by making healthy lifestyle changes is better for health than following a quick fix faddy diet and it's more likely to result in long term weight loss too. In our study, 70 per cent of new mums waited for at least three months before joining a Slimming World group, suggesting that new mums are waiting until they feel ready to make those long-term changes before taking action - which leads to even greater success."
The survey was conducted ahead of the launch of a new website created jointly by Slimming World and the Royal College of Midwives that offers advice and health tips to mums and mums-to-be through every stage of their pregnancy, from pre-conception to post-natally.
Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, says: "This survey shows that weight gain in pregnancy can have a long-lasting impact on women's health, self-esteem and confidence as a parent.
"We recognised that there are confusing and conflicting messages about how to manage weight before, during and after pregnancy and there's a huge need for straightforward clear information and healthy lifestyle advice. So we've worked with Slimming World to provide a resource that we hope will help improve the health and self-esteem of women and help them to confidently pass on healthy habits and lifestyles to their families."
Key survey stats
The survey of 1,105 new mums, who had given birth within the last 2 years, was conducted on the Slimming World member website in September 2013. Key statistics included:
- 51% said gaining weight in pregnancy affected their self-esteem
- 82% said retaining weight after giving birth affected their self-esteem
- 31% said they felt under social and/or media pressure to be an ideal weight after having their baby
- 38% new mums were tempted to follow a quick-fix faddy diet to lose their baby weight, before joining Slimming World
- 70% of new mums wait for at least 3 months before joining Slimming World