UH Moment: "Body Image/Post Partum"

Identity is at once complex and delicate, susceptible to imbalances particularly when aspiring to an ideal. A University of Houston College of Technology professor examined identity and self esteem as experienced through post partum women. Listen to this week's UH Moment.
"In our society appearance is such the focus on who we are and how we are appreciated in society," said Alyssa Adomaitis (PDF), visiting assistant professor and program manager in the Human Development and Consumer Sciences department (of the UH College of Technology). "It is reiterated especially when we see news that Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie just had babies, and Heidi Klum is walking the Victoria secret runway three weeks after she's had a child. Most of us are struggling with stretch marks and spider veins and caesareans, and it's like how is this possible?"

Adomaitis strives to raise awareness of post-partum depression in her most recent study (PDF). She surveyed Houston moms who work in and out of the home and found differing feelings of envy and jealousy as they considered a post-pregnancy ideal.

"It's an upward comparison, meaning I can't reach that ideal and it makes my self esteem go lower," she said. "If you view these images over and over you can fall into a state of depression as your hormones are changing. Are women's mental state being noted enough to say this may or not be a case of depression."

Her study found that moms who worked in the home identified more with their own mothers and a life given to their kids—the media ideal appearance out of reach—while moms who work out of the home were motivated to achieve the ideal body in order to return to their pre-pregnancy social identity.

Adomaitis is hopeful doctors, like OB-GYNs, take note.

"Rebuilding your self esteem is going to be a bigger issue and these need to be looked at for women to understand who they are, and value who they are, even if we're not all perfect," she said.

Alyssa Adomaitis is part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.