Starting late : problems and coping strategies of women who delay parenting until after the age of 40 years : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Nursing at Massey University
The purpose of this study was to explore the meaning of motherhood for women over 40 years of age at the birth of their first child. The research answers two questions, "What parenting related problems and coping strategies are identified by mothers who delay parenting until after the age of 40 years?", and "How can nurses and midwives provide effective support for older mothers?" The descriptive exploratory method used in this research proved to be very effective in enabling the mothers to relate their experiences as they perceived them. Data was gathered from semi-structured interviews and the process of thematic analysis was used to identify the major themes. The research highlighted the resourcefulness and the positive attitudes of the participants, who were able to draw on an abundance of resources from their previous roles as career women. Most of these women had expected to become mothers in their early to mid thirties if not before, but for some of them conception was a problem and for others the timing for motherhood was not right. The major stressors identified by the participants related to fertility issues and genetic screening. At these times they would have valued increased support from health professionals. One persistent theme was the concern "What if something happens", either to the child or themselves. There was a need to know everything related to their own and their childrens' experiences prior to making a decision. The teenage years were seen as a major problem, with most participants expressing their concern about the high incidence of mental health problems related to this group. Implications for nurses and midwives are explored throughout the study, with a discussion of the health and social services that the participants found to be helpful.