Maternal role development: the impact of maternal distress and social support following childbirth

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Emmanuel, EN, Creedy, DK & St John, W 2011, 'Maternal role development: the impact of maternal distress and social support following childbirth', Midwifery, vol. 27, pp. 265-272.

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Objective: to explore the relationship between maternal role development (MRD), maternal distress (MD) and social support following childbirth.

Design: prospective longitudinal survey. Setting: three public hospital maternity units in Brisbane, Australia.

Participants: 630 pregnant women were invited to participate in the study, with a 77% (n ¼ 473) completion rate.

Measurements: to measure MRD, the Prenatal Maternal Expectation Scale was used at 36 weeks of pregnancy, and the revised What Being the Parent of a New Baby is Like (with subscales of evaluation, centrality and life change) was used at six and 12 weeks post partum. At all three data collection points, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale was used to measure MD, and the Maternal Social Support Scale was used to measure social support. Findings: at 36 weeks of gestation, optimal scaling for MRD produced a parsimonious model with MD providing 39% of predictive power. At six weeks post partum, similar models predicting MRD were found (evaluation: r 2 ¼ 0.14, MD providing 64% of predictive power; centrality: r 2 ¼ 0.07, MD providing 11% of predictive power; life change: r 2 ¼ 0.26, MD providing 59% of predictive power). At 12 weeks post partum, MD was a predictor for evaluation (r 2 ¼ 0.11) and life change (r 2 ¼ 0.26, 54% of predictive power).

Key conclusions and implications for practice: there is a statistically significant but moderate correlation between MRD and MD. The transition to motherhood can be stressful, but may be facilitated by appropriate acknowledgement and support with an emphasis on MRD.

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