Get access

Learning to Be a Normal Mother: Empowerment and Pedagogy in Postpartum Classes


  • Megan L. Aston Ph.D., R.N.

Megan L. Aston is Assistant Professor, Dalhousie School of Nursing, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  Address correspondence to Megan L. Aston, 5869 University Avenue, Halifax, NS, B3H 3J5, Canada. E-mail:


This qualitative study, which was conducted in the summer of 1992, presents the findings of how six first-time mothers and two public health nurses experienced pedagogical practices within postpartum classes offered by two public health units in Ontario, Canada. How concerns and aspirations of new mothers were constructed and mediated in the postpartum class are analyzed using concepts from poststructuralist and feminist methodologies. This study goes beyond an analysis of individual teaching and learning styles and discusses how social structures of isolation, investment in a medical discourse, and processes of normalization construct an individual's experiences and practices of mothering, which in turn influence pedagogical practices in postpartum classes. Issues of empowerment, language, support, and knowledge exchange are discussed.