No longer pregnant, not yet a mother: giving birth prematurely to a very-low-birth-weight baby

Qual Health Res. 2012 May;22(5):595-606. doi: 10.1177/1049732311422899. Epub 2011 Sep 16.


In this article we present the findings of a qualitative examination of 30 mothers of very-low-birth-weight babies. Interviews conducted with the mothers when the babies were still in neonatal hospitalization show that virtually all the mothers described their delivery both as a traumatic event, and as a nonevent in which they felt that they barely participated. Most of them blamed themselves for not carrying full term, some blamed others, and some believed the premature delivery saved their baby's life. Following their truncated pregnancies, their "nonparticipation" in the delivery, and their separation from their newborn immediately after the delivery, virtually all the women reported difficulty grasping that they were mothers. Many reported a sense of loss, emptiness, and frustration that the baby was no longer inside. The women took a variety of measures, including magical means and parenting behaviors, to safeguard their vulnerable babies and to become mothers within the constraints of the neonatal unit.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Israel
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Postnatal Care
  • Premature Birth*
  • Young Adult