Mothers' Experiences of Having a Preterm Infant in the Neonatal Care Unit: A Meta-Synthesis

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Neonatal nurses today are challenged not only to provide the best possible developmental care for a preterm infant but also to help the mother through an uncertain motherhood toward a feeling of being a real mother for her preterm baby. An increasing interest in mothers' experiences of having a preterm baby is seen. A meta-synthesis of 14 qualitative research studies on mothers' experiences of having a preterm baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, published from 2000 onward, was conducted. Noblit and Hare's methodological approach was used. The meta-synthesis revealed five metaphors that captured the mothers' experiences. These metaphors centered on reciprocal relationships that consisted of mother-baby relationship (“from their baby to my baby”), maternal development (a striving to be a real normal mother), the turbulent neonatal environment (from foreground to background), maternal caregiving and role reclaiming strategies (from silent vigilance to advocacy), and mother-nurse relationship (from continuously answering questions through chatting to sharing of knowledge). Implications of the meta-synthesis for neonatal nursing are addressed.

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