Becoming a parent is full of contradictions: It’s a time in life when love and meaning and joy crash headlong into worry and exhaustion, so much so that some new parents struggle to maintain their own identity. A new study out of the Netherlands suggests that this is especially true for mothers.
The researchers found a consistent pattern: Women experienced declines in self-esteem during their pregnancies, and then increases in the six months afterwards. But then their self-esteem declined once again, and continued falling. By three years into their child’s life, it was still lower than their original “baseline.”
Because they didn’t keep collecting data, researchers don’t know if the dip lasted even longer, but they do know it wasn’t permanent: Women who completed the survey again for a subsequent child had returned to their baseline by the time the process began anew.
The researchers noted several possible reasons for a decline in self-esteem during pregnancy, including physical changes to the body, rampant hormones, stress over the baby’s development, and concerns about the future.