Maternal Distress: Putting Motherhood at Risk
Purpose: To investigate the relationship between maternal distress (MD) and maternal role development (MRD) following childbirth.
Methods: A longitudinal prospective study with a cohort of 614 women was undertaken and data collected at 36 weeks gestation, at 6 and 12 weeks following childbirth.
Results: The incidence of MD was 42% (n = 252) at 36 weeks gestation, 19.2% (n = 97) at 6 weeks postpartum and 15.5% (n = 73) at 12 weeks following childbirth. Significant changes were found in MRD over time accounting for 11.4% of variance. MD was signficantly associated with MRD across time. The results reflect the experiences of contemporary birthing women which differs from original conceptualisations. As a result of MD, it would seem MRD takes longer and confirms that motherhood for many women in contemporary society is distressing.
Conclusions: The difficulties new mothers have continue to be underestimated. Although health care services provide standard care, there is limited acknowledgement of the emotional challenges of childbearing and the intensity and demands of motherhood. Health care services need to provide a more holistic service with mental health nurses working together with midwives. Such an approach would demonstrate an appreciation of a high proportion of women reporting MD particularly those at risk in relation to diminished functioning capacity, domestic violence and limited social support. Including educational strategies and ongoing professional development highlighting the experiences of contemporary childbearing women would refelct acknowledgement and support for new mothers.