Mothers' experiences of having a premature infant due to pre-eclampsia

Scand J Caring Sci. 2018 Jun;32(2):527-534. doi: 10.1111/scs.12476. Epub 2017 Aug 10.


Aim: Pre-eclampsia can lead to premature birth aimed at saving mothers' and infants' lives. Few studies have addressed how women with serious pre-eclampsia experience to become mothers to a premature infant. The aim was to describe the phenomenon of mothers' experience of being a seriously ill with pre-eclampsia and on the same time becoming a mother of a premature infant.

Methodology: A reflective phenomenological lifeworld approach with a descriptive design was used. Nine mothers were interviewed twice, between 6 and 24 days and 16 days to 16 weeks postpartum. The analysis was done by finding meaning units, and then contemporary clusters were made. The process was a movement between figure and background. The essence with its constituents emerged.

Findings: Being a seriously ill mother of a premature infant requires journeying through physical and psychological suffering to be able to care and take responsibility for their beloved infants. The essence had the following constituents: conflicting feelings concerning giving birth, reflecting upon the borderline of life, longing for the infant, becoming a mother in actuality and experiencing physical exhaustion.

Conclusion: Because of the acuteness of the birth and the infant's prematurity, the mothers had various feelings about becoming mothers. Existential issues concerning life and death were triggered regarding their own lives and those of their infants. Their experiences are different from those of other NICU mothers; their illnesses initially restricted them from being with their infants. The mothers found that their own health and the fact that their infants were premature and had to stay in the NICU restricted them from being able to take care of their infants. While they recovered, they strived to act as they felt a real mother should.

Keywords: Infant; intensive care units; mothers; neonatal; phenomenology; postpartum period; pre-eclampsia; premature; premature birth; reflective lifeworld research.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pre-Eclampsia / psychology*
  • Pregnancy