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Keywords:

  • caesarean section;
  • first-time mothers;
  • midwifery;
  • mode of delivery;
  • personality changes;
  • pregnancy;
  • questionnaire

Abstract

Title. First-time mothers and changes in personality in relation to mode of delivery.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study conducted to examine changes in personality from late pregnancy to early motherhood in primiparas having vaginal or caesarean deliveries.

Background.  Birth of the first child is a major life event, possibly influencing personality. The physiological and emotional processes that start in pregnant women have a major impact on the evolving mother–child relationship. Knowledge about changes in personality during pregnancy and motherhood is scarce.

Method.  A prospective, group-comparative cohort study including 314 healthy primiparas having either ‘caesarean section on maternal request’ (n = 74) or ‘spontaneous vaginal delivery group’ (n = 240). The self-report inventory Karolinska Personality Scales was mailed to participants at 37–39 gestational weeks in pregnancy and 9 months after delivery. Data were collected from January 2003 to June 2006.

Results.  All mean values of the personality variables were within the normal range. There was a statistically significant increase in Impulsivity (P = 0·046) and decrease in Socialization (P = 0·004). The scores developed differently depending on mode of delivery. Thus, women in the vaginal delivery group increased their scores on the Psychic anxiety and Guilt scales, while those in the caesarean delivery group decreased their scores. Although women in both groups became more impulsive and less socialized, personality remained comparatively stable in the transition from late pregnancy to motherhood.

Conclusion.  As interactive therapeutic midwife/client relationships and maternal/social role preparation have been shown to have a great effect on progress in becoming a mother, knowledge about how personality may affect this process is important so that healthcare professionals can attempt to reduce women’s anxiety levels during pregnancy.