The experience of being a mother with perinatally acquired Human Immunodeficiency Virus (PHIV)

Faye Millner

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Women with perinatally acquired HIV (PHIV) are surviving into adulthood, with many now becoming mothers. Little is known about the experience of having a child in the context of a diagnosis of PHIV. This Grounded Theory study aimed to explore and build a model of; the links between the experience of growing up with HIV; having a parent with HIV and becoming a parent; the relationship between the mothers’ ability to bond with their children and their own HIV status; and the influence of the pregnancy and birth on the relationship between women with PHIV and their own mothers. Seven mothers with PHIV aged 21-29 with a total of 11 children were recruited and interviewed about their experiences.
Data analysis resulted in a theoretical model of motherhood within the context of a diagnosis of PHIV. The model comprised of three theoretical codes; conceiving, conception and pregnancy; birth, bonding and breastfeeding and establishing motherhood and future related thoughts. The experience of becoming a mother was characterized by powerful feelings of bonding with their children, warmth towards their own mothers and personal growth. Many women appeared to want to use their own experiences of growing up with HIV and being parented by an HIV-positive mother in a positive way to benefit their child. Feelings of anxiety and failure were also common, however, and affected the antenatal and perinatal periods in particular. Overall the experience of motherhood was both enhanced and diminished by the diagnosis of PHIV.
The findings highlight important areas for development in clinical practice and implications for local and global efforts to support the increasing numbers of mothers with PHIV, as well as those considering motherhood in the future are outlined. Suggestions for future research are offered.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Evangeli, Michael, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • grounded theory; maternal HIV; mother to child transmission; perinatal HIV; pregnancy; vertical transmission

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