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An interpretative phenomenological study exploring the attitudes of first-time mothers towards sleep deprivation in the postpartum period

Chwalko, Joanne (2019) An interpretative phenomenological study exploring the attitudes of first-time mothers towards sleep deprivation in the postpartum period. Doctoral thesis (Other), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This study set out to explore first-time mother’s attitudes to sleep deprivation. During the transition to motherhood sleep deprivation is considered a ‘normal’ adjustment to motherhood. However, there is no evidence to suggest that new mothers are able to cope better with sleep deprivation or the detrimental impact on physical or psychological health compared to the population as a whole. Women often feel they should be able to manage the effects and are often unprepared for the reality when experiencing the effects. Guided by the philosophical assumptions of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), this study explores the experience of maternal sleep deprivation through the voices of six first-time mothers. Testimonies were collected through face-to-face, semi-structured interviews during the postnatal period. Each testimony was analysed using Smith et al.’s (2009) IPA model. Four main themes emerged: power of the professional, relationship with child, transition of self and idealism vs reality. Women’s attitudes were influenced by their sense of identity defined through their relationships with professionals, their child and previous role. Attitudes are influenced by relational care: the ability of professionals and mothers to connect, be compassionate and explore sleep deprivation in collaboration. Training professionals and mothers in mindfulness, particularly ‘being present’, may have a positive impact on women’s attitudes to sleep deprivation including their ability to develop appropriate coping strategies.

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