Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Helene Berman


Statement of the Problem: Motherhood and childbirth are very sensitive experiences and have a strong impact on family functioning, social identity, and cohesiveness. Although motherhood and childbirth have been discussed extensively in the scholarly and popular literature, much of this work has been conducted from a North American perspective, with little attention to how motherhood and childbirth are experienced by newcomer women from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds.

Methodology and Theoretical Orientation: A critical ethnographic study using in-depth interviews with 16 newcomer women was utilized to explore newcomer women’s experiences and understandings of motherhood and childbirth in the aftermath of migration to Canada. A critical feminist perspective was utilized to provide a reasonable explanation of the experience of newcomer women during motherhood and childbirth

Findings: Although the women in this study expressed different meanings of motherhood and childbirth experiences, most of them agreed that it was happy, unforgettable, and worth their sacrifices. They viewed motherhood as meeting the social and religious expectations from them as women despite their fears of childbirth process in a different environment and the difficulties of raising children in a new country. As well, the women identified some challenges they faced on becoming mothers. The lack of social and emotional support, parent- child conflict, and competing roles and economic distress were adding to women’s hardship. Women also demonstrated strengths and employed a number of strategies to deal with the stress of the changes associated with becoming a mother in Canada. Among the strategies they used were preserving the good mother identity, using hope, patience and acceptance, adopting health promoting practices, using religion as catalyst for coping, and adjusting parenting style. Women expressed mixed opinions and experiences about the care they received from health care system in Canada. Although some of these stories were similar to many women without newcomer status, being in a different health care environment for the first time and dealing with doctors and nurses who speak different language caused women an extra burden.

Although women identified different sources of support, with the absence of extended family support, this was not sufficient to meet their needs. Migration circumstances also influenced women’s perspectives about the changes that occurred in their marital relationships. While most women described how their marital relationship became more intimate and close, some women reported the occurrence of conflict and stress inside their families.

Conclusion and Significance: Findings from this study provide insight to inform nursing practice, education, research, and policy making with regards to newcomer women’s experiences during the process of childbirth, and as new mothers in a new land. This study provides information that enhances the ability of nurses to provide safe care.