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Keywords:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • motherhood;
  • thematic analysis

Abstract

Objective

Planning a family is a complex decision. For women with chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there are additional concerns about their own and their baby's health. This qualitative study examined women's experiences of negotiating their family decisions in the context of RA.

Methods

A qualitative study was conducted in 14 women who provided a written account of their motherhood decisions and experiences. Those ‘stories’ were then thematically analysed.

Results

RA was found to affect women's motherhood decisions and experiences. Three key themes were identified for both the process of decision making and the experience of that decision: capacity, uncertainty and acceptance. Only two of the women decided not to have children, while for others the decision centred on changing expectations from the number of children they planned to have, to parenting within the restrictions of their physical abilities.

Conclusion

While many women struggled through the negotiations of their motherhood choices, those who chose to have children reported great joy in that experience. The challenges faced by women with RA contemplating motherhood, however, highlight the need for understanding and support from health professionals and the provision of resources so that women can make informed choices. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.