Professional and social support for first-time mothers and partners during childbearing
Sammanfattning: Background: Expecting a child and becoming a parent is one of life’s major events, during which the parents’ perspective on life and their couple relationship changes. For some parents, childbearing entails a decrease in parental couple relationship quality. The way in which parents are able to cope with childbearing may be connected with their Sense of Coherence; which is a person’s ability to perceive life as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. For parents’ positive childbearing experiences, professional and social support have been proven to be valuable. However, far from all parents have access to social support; furthermore, professional support does not always meet the needs of expectant parents. Hence, more research is needed to increase knowledge about expectant parents’ experiences of professiona land social support. In addition, more research is needed to explore factors associated with quality of couple relationship among parents during childbearing.Aims: The overall aim of the thesis was to explore professional and social support for first-time mothers and partners during childbearing in relation toquality of couple relationship and Sense of Coherence.Methods: The study’s designs were explorative, prospective and longitudinal; both qualitative and quantitative methods were used. Specifically, explorative designs, qualitative methods and phenomenographic analysis were used to explore expectant first-time mothers’ (I) and partners’ perceptions of professional support (II). Furthermore, an explorative design, qualitative method and qualitative content analysis were used to explore expectant first-time mothers’ experiences of social support (III). Within Study IV, a prospective longitudinal design, descriptive statistics, non-parametric tests and multiple linear regression analysis were used to evaluate factors associated with quality of couple relationship among first-time mothers and partners, during pregnancy and the first six months of parenthood.Results: The overall results of the thesis revealed both similarities and differences between expectant first-time mothers’ and partners’ perceptions of professional support, effects from social support and associated factors with perceived quality of couple relationship. The similarities were; both mothers and partners perceived that professional support could facilitate partner involvement, influence their couple relationship and facilitate contacts with other expectant parents. According to first-time mothers’ experiences, their couple relationship with their partner was also strengthened by social support during pregnancy. Further, the results showed that both first-time mothers’ and partners’ higher perceived couple relationship quality six months after birth, was associated with their higher perceived social support. The results showed also that both mothers and partners perceived their quality of couple relationship to decrease and Sense of Coherence to increase six months after childbirth, compared to the pregnancy. Differences revealed were such as: higher Sense of Coherence was only associated with mothers’ higher perceived quality of couple relationship, and first-time mothers reported perceiving more social support compared to the partners both during pregnancy, first week and six months after childbirth.Conclusions: Professional and social support can strengthen first-time mothers and partners both individually and as a couple, in their abilities to cope with childbearing. On the individual basis, the expectant parents could be strengthened through professional and social support that contributed to their understanding and feeling of being prepared for childbirth and parenting, for instance. As a couple, the parents were strengthened by professional support that included the partner’s role, as well as higher perceived social support overall. In contrast, lack of support could have a negative influence on the expectant parents’ feeling of being prepared for childbirth and parenting. Besides this, the results indicates that childbearing has a positive effect on parents’ abilities to cope with life even though their quality of couple relationship decrease. Professionals can use these results in their further understanding about how to offer satisfactory support to first-time mothers and partners during childbearing.
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