Background: In our varied roles as health care professionals and researchers, many women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have commented to us about their feelings of inability to cope with everyday tasks, especially within their role as mothers.
Aims: This study explored the health and life experiences of mothers with RA in order to increase knowledge about this group of women and inform health care professionals who provide them with support before and after becoming a mother.
Methods: A phenomenological approach was adopted, and individual face-to-face semi-structured interviews were carried out with a sample of seven women, aged 21-41 years, who had lived with RA for 3-11 years and had one or more children under five years of age (total range of ages being 1-7 years). The data were analysed using Colaizzi's procedural steps.
Results: The five major themes that emerged were inner strength, depression, labelling, failure, and pre- and post-natal education. Sub-themes included issues such as putting on a brave face, spirituality, guilt, burden, feeling 'robbed of motherhood', isolation, coping methods and lack of information.
Conclusions: This in-depth study informs health care professionals for their role as support provider for mothers with RA. Further research needs to be carried out to include multicultural experiences, which may or may not differ. As a step forward, we have implemented a local support group for mothers with RA, which will hopefully add benefit to existing rheumatology, midwifery and health visiting services.