Controlling the unruly maternal body: Losing and gaining control over the body during pregnancy and the postpartum period Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This paper examines the feeling of lost control of the body that so many women experience through pregnancy and the postpartum period - why they feel it and how they interpret that feeling - and women's responses to the sense of lost control. For the 63 Canadian women we interviewed, the sense of lost control was related to the degree they felt their bodies changed and the number of physical problems they experienced while pregnant. Many women's references to "luck" as the cause of body changes and problems experienced underscored how little control they felt they had when they were pregnant. At the same time, women felt responsible for the well-being of their babies, and thus experienced guilt about their unruly bodies. Careful attention to diet helped some women, but not others, regain some sense of control; women with past experience of pregnancy who "gave in" to body change were more sanguine. In the postpartum period, body work (especially exercise) functioned to increase women's sense of control, but a variety of motives led them to do this work.

publication date

  • February 2017