Exploring the Use of Self-Compassion in the Transition to Motherhood: A Thematic Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Felton, B. 2021. Exploring the Use of Self-Compassion in the Transition to Motherhood: A Thematic Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8993y
AuthorsFelton, B.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Objectives: Self-compassion has been shown to improve emotional wellbeing and act as a buffer against psychological issues. First-time mothers, who are at high risk of developing distress and psychological issues in the transition to motherhood, particularly in the first year after childbirth, could benefit greatly from this skill. Research into self-compassion among new mothers is currently very limited, however, the existing studies have shown the benefits of this skill and recommended self-compassion to be used in intervention and prevention strategies for perinatal mental health issues. This research aimed to explore how self-compassion is practised by first-time mothers in the transition to motherhood in order to learn from this group and implement practical strategies for new mothers who may struggle with self-compassion.
Design: Data from eleven first-time mothers, who identified as practising self-compassion, was collected through individual semi-structured interviews. The participants’ ages were between 32 and 40 years and reported no symptoms of current psychological issues. The age of the participants’ babies ranged from 6-24 months.
Methods: Thematic Analysis was used to analyse the transcribed interview data and critical realist epistemology was used.
Findings: Three themes that emerged from the data were: ‘the building blocks of self-compassion’, ‘sudden changes and initial difficulties of maternity could block self-compassion’ and ‘becoming self-compassionate while embracing motherhood’. The subthemes are discussed under each theme, explaining the use of self-compassion by the participants.
Conclusions: The findings clearly indicate that first-time mothers are likely to struggle with self-compassion in early motherhood due to several practical and emotional barriers. However, changing their perspective about motherhood, the babies’ growth and other people’s support appeared to allow the participants to become more self-compassionate. This study has a strong potential to be a guide to enhance interventions in Counselling Psychology, as well as improve services working with new and expectant mothers, as recommended in the implications.

KeywordsSelf-compassion; first-time mothers; new mothers; postpartum; maternal challenges
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8993y
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online20 Jul 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted12 Feb 2021
Deposited20 Jul 2021
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