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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday's Trends in Psychology: The Marketing of Motherhood

Pregnant Profile II *
Thought for the Day: This is my second report of research findings presented at the  Museum of Motherhood's Conference: A New Motherhood? Evolving Policies, Practices, & Families. In the first post, the articles addressed changing attitudes toward working mothers. Today the studies relate to how the marketing of motherhood, society's expectations & practices impact on mothers navigating their way as parents. Are mothers being expected to accept what marketers & medical professionals tell them about motherhood instead of being listened to by professionals to understand what motherhood means? If you have questions about these studies feel free to comment & I will ask the presenters directly, if I do not know the answer.

Dr. Laura Tropp, Associate Professor & Chair of the Communication Arts Department at Marymount Manhattan College, in NYC explored the "The pregnancy industrial complex: Marketing pregnancy in the 21st century." Women are bombarded with images of famous women's pregnancies, like Kate Midlleton's & Kim Kardashian, leading women to try to look the part of the glowing pregnant woman dressed in the latest maternity fashions. Expectant mothers are also bombarded with a wide array of products to purchase if they wish to attain the "perfect" pregnancy. According to Dr. Tropp this turns pregnancy into a public performance which "distracts (women) from determining what their pregnancy means. Their choices of pregnancy products become trivial, & their identities become warped up in branded categories." How these expectations make women feel if they do not feel glowingly joyous or beautiful during their pregnancies is not considered as marketers push their "perfect" products.

In an inspiring study, "Awakening maternal identity in homeless adolescent mothers," the common belief that teenage motherhood is a negative life choice, is questioned by Marina Mazur, M.A. & Alexandra Jordan, M.A., under the supervision of Dr. Aurelie Athan & Dr. Lisa Miller (Teacher's College Columbia University, NYC), shared their findings from work with teen mothers in a homeless shelter.  By providing weekly psychotherapy groups, they found teen motherhood to be "a walking contradiction. Through adolescent motherhood, much is lost but much is also gained."  Motherhood provides the opportunity for rapid gains in "maturity, fulfillment, purpose & healing."

Several papers examined how conventional hospital birthing experiences impact on mothers & infants. Ellynne Skove, MA, LCAT, BC-DMT, RPP, NCC (licensed therapist) presented a paper on "Broken bonds in the maternal-infant dyad." She found that disruptions of the bonding between mother & infant "can lead to physical & emotional health & development issues in the newborn, following into childhood. " Infant asthma, colic, sleep problems, social relationships are just a few of the issues that can arise. She suggests that hospitals can implement simple interventions in the minutes & hours following birth that could prevent the negative birth traumas caused by separating the infant from the mother after birth.

What happens to mothers when their dreams of the "ideal" birth experience are shattered by complications during childbirth was the focus of Rumyana Kudeva's doctoral dissertation in the Clinical Social Work program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her project, "Disenfranchised grief in women: A qualitative inquiry into women's lived experience of the loss of the dreamed of birth," stemmed from her own personal experience. She lost her dream of natural childbirth when omplications arose & a C-section was required. The medical world acted as if her feelings of grief & loss were not warranted, since she had a healthy baby. When she searched for studies of how this impacts on mothers, she found nothing to validate her experience in the professional world. However, women were writing about it online & speaking about the trauma & loss privately. Therefore, she did a qualitative study into a common problem mothers experience when C-section is necessary.

These studies raise questions of why women are being told what to expect when they are expecting & as mothers, but their feelings about what they are experiencing are often not taken into account. As the study of motherhood, which is in it's infancy evolves, less of the experiences will be left to marketers & branders & hopefully, more will be placed in the hands of mothers.

*Photo from
'pregnant profile II' http-/

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