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From woman to mother: exploring maternal representations from pre-pregnancy to early motherhood

posted on 26.02.2017, 22:36 by 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 Baby. 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 baby’. 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.


Principal supervisor

Wendy Cross

Additional supervisor 1

David Clarke

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Nursing and Midwifery

Campus location



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences