The role of maternal self-care in new motherhood

Jennifer L. Barkin*, Katherine L. Wisner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Objective: to examine the following: (1) women's perceptions regarding the role of maternal self-care, (2) specific applications of self-care in new motherhood and (3) barriers to practising effective self-care. Design: three focus groups were conducted in order to study women's perspectives regarding the key components of new motherhood. Setting: recruitment took place in Allegheny County, surrounding Pittsburgh. The focus groups were held at the University of Pittsburgh's Medical School. Participants: thirty-one adult women who had given birth in the year prior to enrollment participated in the study. Methods: the focus group conversations were recorded and transcribed for purposes of qualitative analysis. Conversation related to maternal self-care, which was identified as a component of new motherhood, was grouped into one of three categories: (1) women's valuations of self-care, (2) effective applications of self-care and (3) barriers to good self-care practice. Findings: two ideologies regarding the role of self-care emerged. In one conception of effective mothering, self-care was of primary importance. On the contrary, some women associated a sometimes extreme form of self-sacrifice with new motherhood. Effective applications of self-care included taking time to exercise, allowing the infant's father to care for the child for a period of time and going out to restaurants. Barriers to good self-care practice were time, other limited resources such as money and social support and difficulty accepting help and setting boundaries. Key conclusions: additional focus groups should be conducted with the purpose of studying maternal self-care exclusively. This work is an important first step in identifying ways to help new mothers better care for themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1050-1055
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Maternal functioning
  • Postpartum
  • Self-care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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