Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Steven Tuber

Second Advisor

Diana Punales

Third Advisor

Sasha Rudenstein


pregnancy-associated breast cancer, motherhood


The aim of this study is to explore the psychological impact of pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) on a first-time mother’s identity. What effects does life-threatening illness have on the development of maternal identity and connection? This question was explored with a sample of six mothers via semi-structured interview and self-report measure with the aim to shed light on a scarcely studied phenomenon that is predicted to affect a greater number of mothers in the future. These research questions were explored through Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith et al., 2009) resulting in group experiential themes and three theoretical constructs: (1) a new mother’s emotional response to breast cancer (2) the impact of breast cancer on maternal identity and connection (3) a mother’s life beyond cancer. The findings suggested that the experience of pregnancy-associated breast cancer may interfere with a woman’s capacity to feel like a mother and is felt to disrupt the emotional and physical bond to her baby at varying times during her illness. For each mother, however, these feelings recede in lockstep with her physical recovery allowing for the resumption of a deep-felt connection to her child. The findings from this study contribute to a greater understanding of the experience of new mothers diagnosed with breast cancer and may help to guide professionals who work with these patients.



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