Dr. Dinah F. Meyer presents paper on psychosocial needs of first-time mothers over age 40
Professor of Psychology Dr. Dinah F. Meyer presented a paper on the
“Psychosocial Needs of First-Time Mothers Over Age 40” at the 86th
annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association held in
Chicago on May 1.
“A clear demographic trend in the U.S. in recent
years has been delayed childbearing until mothers are in their 30s and
40s. In particular, births to women ages 40-44 have risen 2 percent
annually since the year 2000,” according to Dr. Meyer. Reports
estimate that up to 40 percent of these pregnancies are unintended.
“While much has been written on the biological difficulties of bearing a
child at an older age, little is known about the psychosocial
adjustment of this new population of mothers,” said Dr. Meyer, whose
study serves as an exploratory effort to assess the social and emotional
needs and experiences of older first-time mothers.
Dr. Meyer surveyed 80 first-time mothers over the
age of 40 about their experiences with pregnancy, birth and the
postpartum period. Participants completed measures of depression and
perceived stress via an online questionnaire. Mothers were, on average
42.5 years old at the birth of their first child and the child averaged
age two at the time of the study. Participants were college educated
with sufficient resources and indicated good adjustment to the role of
Common themes expressed by all participants
included intense gratitude for the opportunity to become a mother and a
readiness for the sacrifices required for parenthood. Common concerns
included a lack of energy and stamina, and worries about their future
health and how it impacts their children. About a fourth of the
first-time mothers expressed feelings of isolation and disconnect from
the younger parents in their peer groups, and expressions of loneliness
Mothers (about 18 percent of the respondents)
with unplanned pregnancies were more likely to be unmarried and showed
higher levels of depression and perceived stress than mothers whose
pregnancy was planned.
No differences in depression or perceived stress
was found between employed and stay-at-home mothers. However, 39
percent of the mothers left full-time employment to stay home with their
child after the birth.
According to Dr. Meyer, when taken together, the
results of this exploratory study might be used to suggest the need for
supportive resources for the care of mothers over the age of 40.
Dr. Meyer earned a B.A. from Ohio Dominican College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The Ohio State University.