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Becoming a Mother: Women's Journeys From Expectation to Experience in Three European Countries

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OBJECTIVE: To investigate important aspects of provision of routine antenatal care from women's points of view in the Netherlands, Scotland, and Switzerland and to construct a conceptual model of care during pregnancy, informed by women.

DESIGN: Grounded theory using semistructured interviews to explore women's views. The interviews were undertaken in Dutch, English, and German.

FINDINGS: In the main study, one single cross-national model emerged, which had implications for women beyond the antenatal period. "Mothering the mother" emerged as a core category. There were two subcategories: "creating a bond" and "becoming a mother." The subcategory of "becoming a mother," which incorporated the stages of "expecting," "familiarizing," and "embarking on motherhood," is reported in this article. Women defined becoming a mother as the aim of provision of maternity care in which they described their journeys from creating expectations in early pregnancy to completing the experience approximately a year after childbirth. Mismatches between expectation and experience at the end of these journeys indicated cross-national differences in the provision of maternity care, particularly regarding the woman–care provider relationships.

CONCLUSION: The findings from this study suggest that an essential aim of the maternity services was to support women in the process of becoming a mother, in the context of their own social world. Supportive conditions include woman–care provider partnerships, involvement of women's individual social worlds in care provision, and continuity of the care providing process. These conditions should be taken into account, while designing effective models of maternity care.

Keywords: Becoming a Mother; Effectiveness; Europe; Grounded Theory; Prenatal Care; Women's Views

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to Ans G. Luyben, RM, PhD, Department of Health, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Murtenstrasse 10, CH-3008 Bern, Switzerland., Email:

Publication date: 2011-03-01

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  • The International Journal of Childbirth is a peer-reviewed, quarterly journal publishing original research, reviews, and case studies concerned with the practice of midwifery, women's health, prenatal care, and the birth process. The journal encourages the exploration of the complex and contextual issues surrounding childbirth provision and outcomes and invites manuscripts from a wide range of clinical, theoretical, political, methodological, psychological, public health, policy, and multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives.
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