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The assumption of the maternal role: a developmental process.

Just as the mother's body undergoes normal physiological changes to meet the demands of the growing fetus, there are also normal psychological changes taking place to prepare her for her new responsibilities. The midwifery curriculum has very adequately prepared the midwife to observe, identify and understand the normal physiological changes that must occur for a successful outcome to the pregnancy. However, little emphasis has been placed on the equally important psychological changes that are also taking place and upon which the establishment of a successful parent/child relationship depends. These normal psychological changes have been described as developmental tasks, and occur with each pregnancy. During the antenatal period there are four major psychological tasks the mother should accomplish. Failure to achieve these tasks during this period may lead to a lack of emotional response to the infant at delivery. There is an elaboration of the prenatal themes during the immediate newborn period, as well as the addition of two new tasks. The mother actually assumes her maternal role in the postnatal period, working through three phases--Taking In, Taking Hold, and Letting Go. These phases are accompanied by stages in maternal touch which indicate to the observer the phase the mother has reached in the assumption of her role.

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