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Researchers receive award for work on postpartum body image

Rachel Blickman, her husband Jeff, daughter Norah, 2, and son Bo, 4, recently left Boise for Austin, Texas, where Blickman is starting a Ph.D. program. Photo courtesy of Rachel Blickman.

Psychology graduate Rachel Blickman and her advisor, Mary Pritchard, a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, have received the Psychology Research Award from the Council on Undergraduate Research to support their work on postpartum body image.

Theirs was one of only four projects to receive funding this year.

Research has suggested that women feel contrasting feelings towards the physical changes in their bodies from pregnancy, Pritchard said. Many women feel pride and excitement that their bodies carried a baby to term while simultaneously feeling dissatisfaction with their bodies and a loss of self when the baby is born.

“We were trying to get at the root of what is behind those contrasting feelings,” Pritchard said.

Blickman and Pritchard surveyed 530 postpartum women in an online survey, then invited a small group of women to further discuss their pregnancies and perceptions.

Blickman, whom Pritchard described as a “truly exceptional student,” is starting a Ph.D. in human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall.

“My research with Dr. Pritchard is near and dear to my heart, as I am a mother to two toddlers and still in the process of understanding and accepting my body after such momentous physical changes,” Blickman said. “Hearing the insights of our participants and realizing the many different pathways one might examine motherhood and body image has been an enormous inspiration as I head into my graduate program at UT Austin.”

At UT, Blickman will work under the mentorship of Professors Marci Gleason and Lisa Neff.

“Both women are incredibly accomplished in the areas of stress and social support in intimate relationships, which I am eager to apply to the examination of couples and body image. I would love to explore a partner’s role in how postpartum women and menopausal women renegotiate their bodies after such profound physical transitions, and feel truly grateful to have found a program that supports my interests,” Blickman said.

She plans to pursue a career in human development.

The Council on Undergraduate Research is a national faculty development organization whose primary objective is to support faculty and undergraduates in their pursuit of research, scholarship and the creative arts. This goal is guided by the principle that faculty members enhance their teaching both through their continued participation in research and through their efforts in involving and supervising undergraduates in research to enrich their students’ academic experiences.