Existential aspects in the transition to parenthood based on interviews and a theatre workshop

Christina Prinds*, Connie Timmerman, Dorte Hvidtjørn, Jette Ammentorp, Niels Christian Hvidt, Henry Larsen, Dorte Toudal Viftrup

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objectives: There are multitudes of existential feelings and considerations around childbirth, with both positive and negative sources of existential meaning; often they are mixed up, but they impact parents’ ideas of meaning and purpose in life. The aim of this study was to explore existential aspects of parenthood transition among new fathers and mothers in view of a potential training programme for professionals in maternity services. Study design: Data were generated through a user-involving two-phase process inspired by action research consisting of first, four focus group-interviews (n = 10); and second, a theatre workshop for parents, health professionals, and researchers (n = 40). Between the two phases, case-narratives were constructed based on the interviews and, in collaboration with a dramatist, dramatized and then played at the workshop by professional actors. Data from interviews and the workshop were thematised for further analysis. Results: We identified five themes: 1. A turning point of what to hold sacred; 2. Changed relationships – guilt and overwhelming love; 3. Awareness of death; 4. Religiousness embodied; 5. What we talk about. Conclusions: Existential aspects of parenthood transition were closely related to meaning in life, changes in relationships, awareness of death and relation to a transcendent belief. Existential aspects were explicated and discussed in nuanced ways expressing existential vulnerability. It is therefore important to both acknowledge and address existential aspects in maternity care, for the simple reason (among others) that they matter to parents. Moreover, this might enhance a coherent and authentic parenthood transition embedding the paradoxicalities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100612
JournalSexual and Reproductive Healthcare
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Childbirth
  • Existential
  • Interview
  • Meaning
  • Parent
  • Theatre


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