"I would never be able to forgive myself if it ended up having consequences for the child": A qualitative study of perceptions of stress and worries among healthy first-time pregnant Danish women

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  • Monica Ladekarl, The Parker Institute, Copenhagen University Hospital - Hvidovre
  • ,
  • Mie Gaardskjær de Wolff, Copenhagen University Hospital - Hvidovre, Danmark
  • Ellen Aagaard Nøhr, Research unit for Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Institute of Clinical Research, University of Southern Denmark, Sdr Boulevard 29, 5000, Odense C, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Nanna Julie Olsen, The Parker Institute
  • ,
  • Ina Olmer Specht, The Parker Institute
  • ,
  • Berit Lilienthal Heitmann, The Parker Institute, Sydney Medical School - Central, University of Sydney, Edward Ford Building A27, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Sydney, AUSTRALIA., University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Anne Brødsgaard

BACKGROUND: Becoming a mother is one of the most transitional experiences in life. It requires psychological, physical, and social adjustment and adaptation in various areas and can be conceived as both a stressful and joyful experience by many women. Especially, first-time pregnancies are recognised as a period of emotional sensitivity. Moreover, stress is a well-established risk factor for premature birth and low birth weight and might affect the health of the offspring. Thus, this study explores the perception of stress and worries in healthy Danish pregnant nulliparous women.

METHODS: We used a qualitative, inductive, exploratory design. Three focus group interviews were conducted with 16 healthy pregnant nulliparous women. Data from the focus group interviews were analysed using content analysis according to Graneheim and Lundman.

FINDINGS: Three main categories contributed to the core theme "Identity Limbo". The categories were: (1) The great responsibility, (2) Imagining picture-perfect, and (3) Two-in-one body. The participants expressed that holding on to their current identity was extremely important. They simultaneously tried to incorporate their new identity as mothers, which imposed sadness about saying goodbye to their old life, leaving them in an identity limbo. These women did not experience classic stressors such as bereavement, poverty, or trauma. Still, the great responsibility for the child's future, changes to their work and career, and saying goodbye to their pre-pregnancy identity were all essential contributors to feelings of stress in the women's current pregnancy and life.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that the identity limbo triggered by pregnancy can make the transition to motherhood stressful for some women. Therefore, with the potentially severe consequences of stress in mind, developing tools that can help women and midwives focus on the mental transition of pregnancy is needed.

StatusUdgivet - sep. 2022

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