Purpose: To examine the experiences of first-time mothers following discharge from the hospital after vaginal delivery.
Study design and method: Qualitative, grounded theory. In-depth interviews were conducted with participants guided by open-ended semistructured questions. All interviews took place in the participants' homes within 4 weeks of delivery and were tape-recorded. Data collection and analysis occurred simultaneously. Open coding and selective coding were utilized to identify and refine concepts. Participants were primiparous, drawn from an urban location in the northeastern United States, English-speaking, and 18 to 35 years of age.
Results: Following the dramatic changes of pregnancy and delivery, the women in this study returned home feeling unprepared to care for themselves and their babies. Because of their lack of preparedness at a time of increased responsibility and vulnerability, they were overwhelmed. Exhausted, feeling unwell and isolated, they struggled to adapt to new role expectations. Propelled into information seeking by their lack of knowledge, they were further hampered by conflicting and fragmented advice. Family and friends were the primary sources for information for the majority of these new mothers, not healthcare professionals or services.
Clinical implications: Insight into the experiences of first-time mothers provides a framework for additional research and the development of programs and resources that will address their unique needs.