Mothers' experience of being separated from their newborns

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2002 May-Jun;31(3):275-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2002.tb00049.x.


Objective: To elucidate mothers' experiences related to separation from their newborns during their 1st week of life, when the newborns had been transferred to a neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).

Design: A phenomenologic-hermeneutic approach. Tape-recorded narrative interviews were conducted 1 to 2 months postpartum in the participants' homes. The mothers were asked to describe and reflect upon their experiences during the time when they were separated from their children.

Participants: Eight women whose full-term newborns had been treated in the NICU for between 2 and 10 days and then declared healthy and sent home.

Results: The women's narratives revealed that their experiences had caused them emotional strain and anxiety. From the analysis, three themes emerged: Being an outsider was based on feelings of despair, powerlessness, homelessness, and disappointment. Lack of control included emotional instability, threat, guilt, and insecurity. The theme of caring included trust, love, anxiety, relief, closeness, and explanations. The experiences were related to the staff, the child, the environment, the mother herself, the child's father, and other mothers.

Conclusions: Separating a mother and her newborn during the 1st week of the child's life involves much emotional strain for the mother, even though the newborn is not seriously ill.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Neonatal Nursing / methods*
  • Norway
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Sweden