Location of Repository

Narratives of the Pregnant Body: The Stories of Women in the Latter Stages of Pregnancy

By Sally Johnson


Becoming a mother is conceptualised as an important life transition in the\ud social sciences. In this chapter I present narratives of six women in the latter\ud stages of pregnancy. The study from which these narratives are drawn aimed to\ud investigate the meaning of changes in weight, body image and eating\ud behaviour in the context of the transition to motherhood and the women’s lives\ud more generally. Previous research suggests that pregnancy and the postpartum\ud period is a time of significant changes in weight, body satisfaction and eating\ud behaviours for many women, and that these might have implications for their\ud health and well being. However, most of this research does not explore how\ud experience is constructed. The qualitative study from which these accounts are\ud drawn took a narrative psychological approach within a material-discursive\ud framework. It aimed to address the following questions: How do women\ud construct reality to make sense of their lived and embodied experience of\ud pregnancy? What possibilities or limitations do their stories create for them?\ud Negative narratives of pregnancy as transgressing idealised femininity ie. the\ud slender ideal, were evident in the women’s stories. However, these dominant\ud cultural narratives of what women should look like were also resisted and\ud pregnancy narratives allowed for being larger and a relaxation of dietary\ud restraint for most, but not all, of the women. Anticipation of the postpartum\ud period further highlighted dominant narratives of femininity, as the importance\ud of regaining control over the transgressive body was emphasised. It is\ud concluded that until more positive and empowering alternative narratives of the\ud pregnant body are available, the transition to motherhood with regard to the\ud meaning of changes in weight, body image and eating behaviour is likely to\ud cause problems for both individual women and society

Topics: HQ, H1, BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.hud.ac.uk:5136

Suggested articles



  1. (1997). A narrative approach to health psychology: Background and potential, doi
  2. (1990). Acts of meaning, doi
  3. (1997). Body image change in pregnancy: A comparison of normal weight and overweight primigravidas, doi
  4. (1997). Body talk: The material and discursive regulation of sexuality, madness and reproduction, doi
  5. (1987). Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour, doi
  6. (2000). Health psychology: A text book, 2nd ed Buckingham,
  7. (2000). Introducing narrative psychology: Self, trauma and the construction of meaning, Buckingham, doi
  8. (1995). Psychological correlates of obesity: Moving to the next research generation, doi
  9. (2000). Social Psychology & Health, 2nd ed Buckingham,
  10. (2000). The gendered body: Body and gender and the interrelationship with health.
  11. (1999). The impact of pregnancy on eating behaviour and aspects of weight concern, doi
  12. (1983). The pregnant women’s place and where to find it, doi
  13. (1998). The social context of health. Buckingham,
  14. (1993). Unbearable weight: Feminism, Western culture and the body, doi
  15. (1984). Women and weight: A normative discontent,

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.