Background: Raising a child is probably the most challenging responsibility faced by a new parent. The first year is the basis of the child's development and is significant for growth and development. Knowledge and understanding of parents' experiences are especially important for child health nurses, whose role is to support parents in their parenthood.
Aim: The aim of this review was to describe mothers' and fathers' experiences of parenthood during the child's first year.
Method: A literature search covering 1992-2002 was carried out using the terms parenthood, parenting, first year, infancy and experience. Of the 88 articles retrieved, 33 articles (both qualitative and quantitative) met the inclusion criteria and corresponded to the aim of this review. The data were analysed by thematic content analysis.
Findings: Being a parent during the child's first year was experienced as overwhelming. The findings were described from two perspectives, namely mothers' and fathers' perspectives, since all the included studies considered mothers' and fathers' experiences separately. The following categories were identified concerning mothers: being satisfied and confident as a mother, being primarily responsible for the child is overwhelming and causes strain, struggling with the limited time available for oneself, and being fatigued and drained. The following categories were found for fathers: being confident as a father and as a partner, living up to the new demands causes strain, being prevented from achieving closeness to the child is hurtful, and being the protector and the provider of the family. The unifying theme for these categories was 'living in a new and overwhelming world'.
Conclusion: There is a need for nurse interventions aimed at minimizing parents' experiences of strain. A suggested intervention is to find a method whereby child health nurses' support would lead to parents becoming empowered in their parenthood.