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From woman to mother: exploring maternal representations from pre-pregnancy to early motherhood
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posted on 26.02.2017by Hopkins, Julia Finbar
The purpose of this study was to investigate the maternal representations (MRs) of a
group of fifteen first-time pregnant women attending a birth centre for routine
antenatal care in order to assess current understandings about the timing and types of
MRs. To this end research questions were designed to explore whether MRs were
active in pre-pregnancy as well as throughout the different stages of pregnancy until three months post partum.
A narrative approach was used to collect data, via two semi-structured interviews,
diaries and questionnaires. The first interview took place in early pregnancy and the second interview at three months post-partum.
Three questionnaires were administered; Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI) Maternal
Antenatal Attachment Scale (MAAS), What Being the Parent of a Baby is Like
(WBPBL). At the first interview the fifteen women were provided with a reflective
diary to write about how they imagined the baby, how the thought about themselves
as a mother, and how they envisaged their relationship with their baby. They agreed
to continue to keep the diary until three months postpartum.
While the questionnaires were statistically analysed no statistical inference could be
made due to the small sample size. The women’s responses indicated that they did not
fall into any risk category.
Data from the interviews and the diaries were analysed using thematic analysis with
seven themes being identified ranging from pre-pregnancy through to 3 months postpartum.
From the first interview The Time is Right showed that MRs were active prior
to pregnancy in this group of women. My Body is Changing showed MRs being
activated during the first physical symptoms of pregnancy while MRs became more
focused on the baby at the first ultrasound, which led to the third theme It’s a Real
Analysis of the diaries kept by the women resulted in two further MR themes being
identified that is, The Good Mother and The Good Baby which showed that the MRs
of the ‘self as mother’ were influenced by representations of an idealised ‘good
Two final themes were identified from the second interview: Birth is Natural: Ideal
and Real Birth and Getting it Right: Ideal and Real Parenting. In the Ideal Birth and
Real Birth the MRs were concerned with place of birth and support during labour and
birth. The MRs of Ideal and Real Parenting were influenced by breastfeeding and
settling the baby.
The identification of these seven themes demonstrates the existence of MRs prior to
pregnancy and how MRs are differentiated from early pregnancy through to 3 months
postpartum depending on particular pregnancy milestones.