The manner in which we begin life has long been associated with how we will develop as individuals later on. Experiences with care during pregnancy, labor and birth, and the postpartum period can greatly impact a woman’s transition to motherhood as well as her mental health. Katherine Hinic, Ph.D., R.N.C., A.P.N. and an assistant professor in the College of Nursing conducted one of the first studies in the U.S. that focused on the importance of birth satisfaction in the hospital when evaluating the emotional well-being and early parenting in new mothers. Her study was published in the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing (MCN).
Challenging or unexpected birth experiences can lead to a number of issues, including difficulties with parenting and mental health issues, the latter sometimes manifesting itself as post-partum depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Hinic’s study incorporated a new research instrument developed in the U.K. based on a satisfaction scale using a ten-item questionnaire. Among some of the mitigating factors evaluated were stress levels, mother’s personal attributes, and care quality. The study group of 107 new mothers at a Level III perinatal center in NJ mirrored the population in diversity, birth type, and whether or not they were having their first baby.
The research indicated that those with higher levels of stress in their lives had more negative birth experiences. Conversely, women who were better prepared and confident had a more positive experience. Also, nursing care positively impacted the birth experience as well as early infant feeding. Efforts such as assisting the patient with breast-feeding and placing the newborn skin-to-skin with the mother greatly influenced overall satisfaction. The quality of care provided by nurses greatly influenced women’s overall perceptions of their birth experiences.
The results of this study are significant to nursing care because they identified ways in which nurses can positively influence a mother’s birth experience and early infant feeding experiences through the care they provide.
States Hinic, “Mental health is important to women, babies, and families. It was a privilege to work with these new mothers who were eager to share their experiences to ultimately impact the care that we nurses provide to other new families.”