Living with a birthmark: Phenomenology of prematurity for mothers in Turkey

J Pediatr Nurs. 2023 Mar-Apr:69:77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2023.01.002. Epub 2023 Jan 21.


Background: Mothers of premature infants are in the risk group for having psychological symptoms and attachment-interaction difficulties. Preventing these maternal risks is essential for providing optimal care and health opportunities for infants, consequently improving developmental outcomes.

Methods: In this study, we aimed to understand how mothers experienced prematurity within four processes retrospectively: (a) the mother's hospitalization after birth, (b) the infant's hospitalization in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), (c) after discharge, and (d) in early childhood. We adopted Max van Manen's phenomenology of practice and interviewed nine mothers whose children were born premature and reached early childhood.

Findings: The themes were as follows: (a) incomplete mother; (b) facing prematurity, uncertainty, natural touch barrier, facing reductive social response, and NICU friendship; (c) being on the alert, a period of complete closure, and fighting with the reductive social response; (d) association to prematurity and (cannot) overcome the difficulties. We expressed the mothers' overall experiences through the metaphor "living with a birthmark." This metaphor represents the longitudinal effects of prematurity. As much as it is apparent and painful at first, it fades over time, and the pain lessens, but the effects of the birthmark remain in early childhood. The birthmark becomes a part of the mother-baby relationship.

Conclusions and practice implications: Our study contributes to premature infant care and health literature by highlighting the longitudinal experiences of mothers on prematurity.

Keywords: Experience; Infant; Mother; Phenomenology; Premature; Prematurity.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / psychology
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Mother-Child Relations* / psychology
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Turkey