Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

A Description of Pregnant Women's Perceptions and Abstract Drawings of Being Pregnant

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

A Description of Pregnant Women's Perceptions and Abstract Drawings of Being Pregnant

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This article explores the use of visual language as a means of examining and communicating the subjective experience of pregnancy. The participants, eleven women in their final trimester of pregnancy, were asked to complete five abstract drawings accompanied by verbal descriptions of their own perceptions and feelings. Using specialized concept cards developed by Rhyne (1979), participants were invited to consider four distinctive "mind states" or feeling states - sadness, anger, fear and joy. An additional card designed specifically for this study explored the broader physical and emotional experiences of 'being pregnant'. In order to understand the personal meanings of the responses and validate the researcher's interpretations, a personal interview was conducted with each participant. The majority of drawings for being pregnant were drawn with curvilinear lines and the images for the abstract drawings were graphlike lines, abstract lines and figure shapes. The drawings aided the participants in expressing feelings and gaining a new awareness of their pregnant bodies. While participants responded differently to the positive and negative aspects of being pregnant, and came with different life situations they all reported "joy" to be the essential underlying emotion that was most similar to being pregnant.

KEY WORDS: Images, feelings, pregnancy, expectant women, third trimester.


Statement of the Problem

Changes in body image and self image during pregnancy have been widely reported in the psychological and medical literature (Fawcett & Frye, 1980; Fawcett, Bliss-Holtz, Haas, Leventhal & Rubin, 1986; Hassid, 1978; Jourard & secord, 1955; McConnell & Oaston, 1969; Strang & Sullivan, 1985). Attempts have been made to document and understand the pregnant woman's subjective perceptual experience through the use of verbal descriptions (Kitzenger, 1967; Hassid, 1978; Kumar, Robson, & Smith, 1984) but little is known about the visual images and emotional states that tend to arise during pregnancy.

The purpose of this study was to obtain visual images from pregnant women through their drawings of'beingpregnant and to explore their emotional states through verbal descriptions. Emotions, or feelings, were assessed according the four "mind states" proposed by Rhyne (i.e. sadness, anger, fear and joy). Rhyne's original concept cards were used to elicit emotional projections and an additional card depicting "being pregnant" was created specifically for this project. Participants were invited to compare the "being pregnant" cards with each of the "mind states" and determine which was the most similar and the most different from their own experience of pregnancy. This adds another dimension, or depth of meaning, for the mother to understand and express the emotional and physical aspects of her pregnancy.

As pregnancy is a time of change in body image and physical wellbeing, the study set out to examine the possibility of a connection between body/mind awareness and the participant's drawings. It might also be assumed that participants would gain a greater degree of self expression and understanding through this awareness. The exercise was designed to encourage participants to express and assess feelings and perceptions during the last trimester. This study not only provides workable tools for further research but the data obtained offers more in-depth understanding of the subjective experiences of pregnancy for professionals in medicine, psychology, art therapy and education fields.


Pregnancy and Body Image

Women experience complex physical and emotional changes during pregnancy. Kitzenger (1967), an anthropologist and childbirth educator, described a state of vulnerability of emotions where women become especially sensitive. Kitzenger and Jourard (1955) identified the following issues concerning body image: loss of figure and weight gain during pregnancy, and weight loss after pregnancy. …

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