An IPA exploration of women’s experiences of being undecided about motherhood in their late thirties

Barnett, Georgina (2016) An IPA exploration of women’s experiences of being undecided about motherhood in their late thirties. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


As women’s roles in society have changed and they have had more freedom to pursue other life-goals, decisions about having children are frequently delayed. Consequently, some women find themselves in their late thirties and undecided about motherhood in the face of the relentless ticking of the biological clock. This research explores women’s experiences of being undecided about motherhood between the ages of 35 and 40 when fertility levels begin to decline sharply. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse semi-structured interviews with five participants. Three major findings were identified. The first was that being at an age where fertility is decreasing and finding oneself undecided about the pursuit of motherhood resulted in feelings of panic and fears regarding the future for some participants. This was influenced by the second major finding – that of societal discourses impacting on the participant’s experience. The third finding was the changing sense of identity and emotional impact experienced by participants in the face of their uncertainty. This suggests a multi-faceted experience which encompasses the intertwining of biological, social and psychological factors. These findings are discussed alongside existing literature in the field to suggest how Counselling Psychologists may support and empower women who are experiencing this stage of their lives as a challenging time.

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