This systematic review aimed to identify and synthesize available qualitative evidence regarding the experiences of the transition to motherhood among pregnant women following assisted reproductive technology.
Pregnant women experience unique challenges to their identity when transitioning to motherhood following assisted reproductive technology. It is important that health care professionals understand the context and complexity of emotional adaptation to pregnancy following assisted reproductive technology.
Any qualitative data from empirical studies that described experiences of the transition to motherhood during pregnancy among women who conceived through assisted reproductive technology were considered for inclusion.
Several databases were searched for published and unpublished studies in English or Japanese from 1992 to 2019, including MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ProQuest Health and Medical Collection, Google Scholar, and Open Access Theses and Dissertations (in English); and Ichushi-Web, CiNii, and the Institutional Repositories Database (in Japanese). All included studies were assessed by two independent reviewers. Any disagreements were resolved through discussion. We used the recommended JBI approach to critical appraisal, data extraction, and data synthesis.
This review included seven studies that considered pregnant women's (n = 110) experiences of transition to motherhood following assisted reproductive technology. The studies were assessed as moderate to high quality (scores 7–10) based on the JBI critical appraisal checklist for qualitative research. All studies used qualitative methodologies or methods including phenomenology, narrative approach, qualitative description, and qualitative content analysis. There were two studies from Japan, one from Brazil, one from Iran, one from Israel, one from the UK, and one from the USA. In total, 51 supported findings were aggregated into 14 categories, and five synthesized findings: i) Pregnant women following assisted reproductive technology require support to decrease anxiety and improve their belief in pregnancy to internalize a maternal identity; ii) Pregnant women following assisted reproductive technology need reassurance of their lifestyles to ensure a safe passage through pregnancy because of ambivalent feelings about becoming a mother; iii) Pregnant women following assisted reproductive technology develop a maternal identity with affection for the fetus if they switch their mindset from infertility to pregnancy; iv) Pregnant women following assisted reproductive technology need to review their self-image of being infertile and prepare for childbirth or motherhood; v) Pregnancy following assisted reproductive technology contributes to the emergence of positive feelings and changing the women's sense of self and other personal relationships. Based on the ConQual approach, the confidence in the synthesized findings was rated as moderate to low.
The synthesized findings highlight the importance of understanding the uncertainty and ambivalent feelings women have about their pregnancy, delayed development of attachment to their fetus and formation of a maternal identity, alteration in their relationships, and the social context of pregnancy via assisted reproductive technology among pregnant women following assisted reproductive technology. Health care professionals need to be aware of the specific care needs of these women relating to the unique pathway in the identity transition to motherhood following assisted reproductive technology. More research on development and implementation of specific intervention programs for expectant mothers following assisted reproductive technology is needed.
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