“Yes, I can bond.” Reflections of autistic women’s mothering experiences in the early postpartum period

Jane Donovan, Beth Desaretz Chiatti, Amy McKeever, Joan Rosen Bloch, Maureen Sullivan Gonzales, Yosefa Birati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting communication and social interaction. Much of the research regarding childbirth and motherhood is focused on non-autistic women. Autistic mothers may experience challenges communicating their needs to health care professionals and find aspects of the hospital environment distressing, indicating a need for more informed practice. Objective: To describe the experiences of autistic women bonding with their newborns after delivery in an acute care setting. Design: The study used a qualitative interpretative description design with data analysis using the method described by Knafl and Webster. The study explored the women’s childbirth experiences in the early postpartum period. Method: Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. The women were interviewed in a setting of their choosing and included in person meetings, meetings over Skype, over the telephone, or via Facebook messenger. Twenty-four women ages 29–65 years participated in the study. The women were from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. All women gave birth to a healthy term newborn in an acute care setting. Results: Three major themes emerged from the data: having difficulty communicating, feeling stressed in an uncertain environment, and being an autistic mother. Conclusion: The autistic mothers in the study expressed love and concern for their babies. Some women described needing more time to recover physically and emotionally before assuming care of the newborn. The stress of childbirth left them exhausted and the demands of caring for a newborn could be overwhelming for some women. Miscommunication during labor affected some of the women’s ability to trust the nurses caring for them and, in two cases, left the women feeling judged as mothers.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen's Health
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

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  • autistic mothers
  • bonding
  • early postpartum
  • feeling judged
  • miscommunication


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