Contemporary women's adaptation to motherhood: the first 3 to 6 weeks postpartum

Nurs Sci Q. 2013 Oct;26(4):344-51. doi: 10.1177/0894318413500345.


A better understanding of the process of adaptation to motherhood should enhance nurses' ability to prepare women for the transition to motherhood and to provide care following childbirth. Knowledge about women's adaptation to motherhood was developed primarily from the 1960s to the 1990s. Cesarean birthing was a special focus of research throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s, followed by functional status, and more recently, depression and stress associated with birth and postpartum. Adaptation to motherhood in the context of the early 21st century has received limited attention in nursing research, creating an assumption that the process of adaptation is universal and context-free rather than evolving within the life and societal context of women across generations. Although becoming and being a mother has been described as a normative transition rather than a stressor by some, knowledge development about adaptation to motherhood also has been constrained by the limited use of a unified perspective of transition as a process of adaptation. Therefore, the purposes of this exploratory study were to describe contemporary women's physical, emotional, functional, and social adaptation to motherhood and to examine the relations of selected demographic and perinatal variables to adaptation to motherhood in the first 3 to 6 weeks of the postpartum.

Keywords: Roy adaptation model; adaptation; mixed method research; motherhood; postpartum.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Women / psychology*