Objective: to provide a thematic overview of the existing literature on existential meaning-making related to transition to motherhood among mothers of full term born babies in Western oriented countries and to discuss the themes from a existential psychology perspective.
Design: the review follows the approach of a scoping review. Systematic searches in the electronic databases PubMed, CINAHL and PsycINFO were combined with manual and electronic searches for related references. Studies published between 1990 and 2010 examining dimensions of existential meaning-making in transition to motherhood were selected. Eleven papers were included in the synthesis, all using qualitative interviews. The following data were extracted from each study: (a) author(s), year of publication, study location, (b) aims of the study, (c) participants, (d) research design, (e) data collection method, (f) outcome measures, and (g) results.
Measurements: the studies were synthesised in a thematisation on the basis of the existential psychotherapist and philosopher Emmy van Deurzen's concepts of four interwoven life dimensions, through which we experience, interpret, and act in the world: Umwelt, Mitwelt, Eigenwelt, and Überwelt.
Key conclusions: the findings in this review suggest that transition to motherhood is considered a pivotal and paradoxical life event. Through the lens of existential psychology it can be interpreted as an existentially changing event, reorganising values and what makes life worth living, and to some women also being interpreted as a spiritual experience. However, in present maternity services there is a predominant focus on biomedical issues, which sets the arena for motherhood transition, and the issues related to potentially existentially changing experiences, are not considered important. Without an integrative approach, where personal meaning-making issues are discussed, the potential for growth during existential authenticity is not utilised. Transition to motherhood raises existential questions about mortality and meaning of life, and we should explore this field in research and in clinical work.
Keywords: Childbirth; Meaning-making; Motherhood; Transition.
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