Women's accounts of pregnancy : psychological and feminist issues
This thesis examines the changing nature of women's pregnancy experiences as progression through the various stages of pregnancy occurs. Ten women are followed through their pregnancies, in order to capture their diverse and dynamic psycho-social experiences. The aim of the research is to highlight the significance of certain psycho-social issues related to the pregnancy experience (both positive and negative) which have been raised by the women themselves during the course of their pregnancies. The analysis has been carried out using the women's own descriptions. The main psycho-social issues that have been analysed are considered under the rubric of the dynamic self, in the form of: identification with the pregnancy; the assessment of risk during pregnancy; and finally, images of the self and baby during pregnancy. The thesis focuses in-depth on the dynamism and complexity of women's feelings during pregnancy. In particular, it looks at the concept of being obstetrically 'at risk' by analysing women's contradictory and changing accounts of their feelings and concerns. The research also contributes to the understandings of the identities and preoccupations of pregnant women. The design of the study is longitudinal and biographic. The women kept personal documents in the form of diaries during their pregnancies, and also participated in four unstructured in-depth interviews (three taking place during pregnancy, the fourth taking place after birth). The methodological approach taken is based on a feminist research perspective, which emphasises the value of qualitative methods of investigation. The thesis explores the role of the researcher by examining the location of the researcher in relation to both the participants and the research area. The individual experiential accounts of pregnancy provided by the women are explored in detail using a feminist interpretative style of analysis (Stanley and Wise, 1993).