“Doing it properly”: transition to motherhood for first time mothers 35 years and above
AuthorCarolan, Mary Concepta
AffiliationSchool of Nursing
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsCarolan, M. C. (2004). “Doing it properly”: transition to motherhood for first time mothers 35 years and above. PhD thesis, School of Nursing, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2004 Dr. Mary Concepta Carolan
This qualitative study investigated the experiences of first mothering for a new social category of mothers, primiparae aged greater than 35 years. Participants were recruited from a tertiary hospital in Melbourne, Australia, a city of more than 3 million people. A total of 22 new mothers were interviewed about their experiences of transition to motherhood. In a smaller sidearm of this study, three focus groups of midwives and maternal and child health nurses were conducted in a bid to identify clinical needs for this particular group of mothers. In general, participants reported high levels of anxiety in the early days of mothering and over 3 in-depth interviews, these women revealed a need for additional social and professional support. However, despite a shaky start, participants ultimately described themselves as both resourceful and proactive, in terms or recruiting information to meet their needs. Despite negative appraisal of their maternal capabilities by a variety of health professionals including midwives and maternal and child health nurses, and common associations of maladjustment, this study found to the contrary. By 6 months postpartum, most participants had, by their own admission, become confident mothers and were overwhelmingly positive about their mothering experiences. Although these women used services and phoned for advice more than perhaps younger mothers, they did not demonstrate the high levels of post-natal maladjustment or depression anecdotally associated with older first-time mothering. Focus group data also clearly indicated that this growing group of mothers had concerns and needs that differed from younger mothers, particularly in regard to confidence building in the first three months post partum. Findings explored ways to provide more meaningful support and improved professional care. The importance of this study is located in the intellectual contribution it makes to the debate surrounding the social context of mothering. An opportunity also presents for health professionals to gain an understanding of the experiences of maternity for contemporary older primiparae. This new understanding may in turn enable health professionals to challenge existing preconceptions of maladjustment among this group of mothers. Finally, an identification of the specific needs of this cohort may give rise to more meaningful maternal support and patient sensitive care.
Keywordsmotherhood; childbirth; middle age
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