Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Nursing


An investigative survey approach was used to explore social aspects of recovery after childbirth and to examine changes in functional status during the first six months post-partum. In addition, this study also explored the relationship between functional status, self-esteem, social support, anxiety and satisfaction with motherhood.

The sample consisted of 200 mothers selected from a culturally diverse population residing within the lllawarra and Shoalhaven Districts. These were new mothers who at the time of survey were attending Maternal Child Health Centres and Immunisation Clinics. All had experienced a healthy pregnancy, normal delivery, normal puerperium and delivered a healthy baby between 37 and 42 weeks gestation.

Following full ethics approval, prospective participants were approached and provided with detailed information about the project. All ethical considerations were addressed. Questionnaires were mailed to each mother when their infant approached the age of six weeks, three months and six months of age. The questionnaire booklet contained a general demographics form, The Inventory of Functional Status After Childbirth (IFSAC) (Fawcett, Tulman, & Myers, 1998), the Prenatal Psychosocial Profile (Curry, Camplell, & Christian, 1993), the Support Behavior Inventory (Brown, 1986) and the Spielberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1983).

Although functional status scores increased significantly over the first six months post-delivery, none of the respondents achieved full functional status as measured by IFSAC. A positive correlation was identified between functional status and maternal self-esteem (r = 0.2077, p = 0.013). Likewise, an inverse correlation was noted between functional status and maternal anxiety (r = -0.2900, p < 0.0001). It was also discovered that satisfaction with support received from one's partner decreased significantly during the six month survey period (t = 3.82, df 139, p < 0.0001) as did satisfaction with support from others (t = 8, df 139, p < 0.0001).

Recovery of full functional ability for most women requires longer than physiological recovery after childbirth. Full functional status as conceptualised by Fawcett et al. (1988) and as measured by IFSAC was not reached by any of the respondents. Many factors can affect a woman's ability to assume her motherhood role and integrate that role with her past role responsibilities. Further research is required to improve our understanding of this multidimensional construct, and the complex nature of the social realities of motherhood.