Transition to Motherhood


Antonia M. Nelson, RNC, PhD, Saint Joseph College, Nursing Department, 1678 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117-2791. E-mail:


Objective: To synthesize the results of nine qualitative studies related to the transition to motherhood, using Noblit and Hare's method of meta-synthesis development.

Data Sources: CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, and Dissertation Abstracts, using the keywords transition, adaptation, motherhood, and mother.

Study Selection: Studies were evaluated for inclusion related to study focus and comparability of findings. Nine studies were included in the final sample, four using a grounded theory methodology and five using either a phenomenologic or phenomenologic/hermeneutic method.

Data Extraction: A series of overlapping, repeating steps as outlined by Noblit and Hare were followed in conducting this meta-synthesis. Detailed tables of metaphors, themes, concepts, and phrases from each study were constructed and studies were compared by means of reciprocal translations.

Data Synthesis: Two processes inherent in maternal transition emerged: engagement and growth and transformation. In addition, five thematic categories signifying areas of disruption present in the maternal transition and 13 underlying themes were revealed.

Conclusions: To facilitate maternal transition, nurses must remain sensitive to the maternal insecurity of primiparae and encourage their maximum maternal engagement, particularly during periods of forced mother-infant separation such as the newborn's admission to the intensive-care unit. In addition, prenatal discussion of realistic expectations for the transitional period, ongoing support through the first 6 months postpartum, and the use of role models should be integrated into postpartum support programs to assist mothers in negotiating typical areas of disruption during maternal transition.