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Publication Date


Document Type



School for Social Work


Childbirth-Psychological aspects, Mothers-Psychology, Women-Psychology, Control (Psychology), Change (Psychology), Change, Power, Narrative, Postpartum


Social work research and psychodynamic theory has overlooked the birthing experience as a significant event in a woman's life which holds the potential to be a catalyst for psychological change. This study examined the ways in which women feel changed by their birth experiences and how issues of power and powerlessness potentially inform these changes. The sample consisted of 119 eligible participants who responded to an online questionnaire of 26 items. Written narratives were coded and analyzed using grounded theory. Participants reported significant changes including: shift in feelings toward the self, perspectives and priorities and changes in identity, body image and relationship to one's body, and enhanced sense of connection with others. Women who experienced strong feelings of powerlessness tended to internalize a sense of failure, while women who reported feeling powerful and empowered emphasized their own personal strength and endurance. Participants consistently evaluated themselves based on their birth experiences.




vi, 263 p. : ill. (some col.) Dissertation (Ph.D.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 217-228)