Internalized Body Stigma as a Barrier to Accessing Preventative Healthcare for Young Women

Kathryn J. Holland, Kristin E. Silver, Allison E. Cipriano, Rebecca L. Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Internalizing stigma toward the body can have negative implications for women's sexual health. In the current study, we examined how young women's internalized stigma toward their body shape, genitals, and menstrual periods are associated with their use of preventative healthcare services for sexual health. Additionally, we tested two mechanisms that may mediate the relationship between internalized body stigma and preventative care: self-objectification (in the form of a loss of autonomy) and comfort communicating with a healthcare provider. We collected and analyzed survey data from 685 undergraduate women. We tested a serial mediation model, such that the internalization of body stigma predicted greater self-objectification, greater self-objectification predicted less comfort communicating with a provider, and discomfort communicating with a provider predicted lower receipt of preventative care. Results partially supported the proposed serial mediation model, such that internalizing stigma towards body shape, genitals, and menstrual periods was associated with discomfort communicating via greater self-objectification. Internalized stigma toward genitals and menstrual periods were significant predictors of preventative care use, even when accounting for self-objectification and communication. Findings suggest that interventions to address genital and menstrual stigma could be especially beneficial for enabling young women to seek preventative care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-224
Number of pages8
JournalBody Image
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • body stigma
  • patient-provider communication
  • preventative care
  • self-objectification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • General Psychology


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