Maybe it’s time to retire the phrase “baby bump” from our vernacular. According to a recent study from researchers at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, all those photos of slim pregnant celebrities and references to their tiny “bump” may not just harm a woman’s self-esteem, but could also interfere with the natural bond she has with her baby.
In their study, researchers interviewed 468 women during their first pregnancies to see how their pre-existing values, attitudes, and general lifestyle behaviors were influenced by media’s coverage of celebrity pregnancies. For the most part, women didn’t seem to be largely influenced by these images of super thin pregnant celebrities. Dr. Jayne Krisjanous, a researcher on the study, told The Huffington Post that the large majority of pregnant women will simply look at sensationalized media front pages with pregnant women in bikinis and think to themselves, “Well, I can’t look like that,” and proceed to have a normal pregnancy.
For a small part of the population, however, images of thin pregnant celebrities cause an obsession that threatens to compromise their fetal attachment. "You see all of the time that it's described as a 'bump' — you know, the 'perfect little bump' or the 'pregnancy bump,'" Krisjanous explained. "A pregnancy is much more than that. It's a complete body change. For most women, just maintaining that little 'bump' is unachievable." The ideology of a “bump” becomes all-consuming for some women, and comparing their bellies to those of celebrities may cause self-image problems, which can manifest as a lack of connection with the unborn child.
Everyone loves a good celebrity pregnancy story, regardless, and as past magazine sales have told us, nothing makes the glossy cover fly off the shelf like an A-list star’s cute little baby bump. While the majority of the childless merely like to marvel over how big stars like Kim Kardashian’s feet swelled up during her prenancy, for the pregnant population, looking at these glossy covers is, well, dangerous if not handled with a bit of realism. "People look at celebrities and say 'Why am I so much bigger? How can they just have this little bump and my hips and waist are changing?" Maggie Baumann, a psychotherapies in California told The Huffington Post before dropping the horrific term,“pregorexic.” Even if you’ve never heard of a pregorexic, I’m sure you can guess what the term refers to.
The Mayo Clinic describes pregorexia as a woman’s drive to control pregnancy weight gain through extreme dieting and exercise, and according to Baumann, it is largely triggered by celebrity pregnancy obsession. Baumann, a recovering pregorexic, can also attest to how the condition altered her perception of the unborn child inside of her. “I thought of my baby as this alien taking control of my body. I'm thinking that this thing is taking control of my body — I'm not attaching to it, because I didn't sense that it was a baby until it was born,” she said.
The study’s author reassured that their results do not call for an end of celebrity pregnancy culture, but merely a heightened awareness of how this “is not necessarily the full picture.” It’s best to get your pregnancy advice from a legitimate health practitioner rather than a magazine’s version of a celebrity’s routine, because in the end, do you really care what Gwyneth Paltrow ate during her second trimester?
Source: Krisjanous J, Richard JE, Gazley A. The Perfect Little Bump: Does the Media Portrayal of Pregnant Celebrities Influence Prenatal Attachment? Psychology & Marketing. 2014.