What mothers worry about

ONCE, WOMEN were fearful of dying in childbirth or having too many children. Now, they worry about being able to conceive, what their boss will say when they fall pregnant, and eating the right foods for the health of their foetus.

In a study of 3,000 women in their first pregnancies, two-thirds said they feared they might not be able to conceive and four out of ten said they were confused about what they should and shouldn't be eating.

Experts believe that because many women are not having children until they are in their thirties, the anxiety about being able to conceive has increased significantly in the past 20 years.

The changing role in the workplace and women's growing financial independence has also meant that half of the women interviewed were just as likely to be as concerned as their partner about providing for their families. One-third said they took on more of the financial responsibilities than their partner did and a quarter said they delayed having children because of their careers.

"Only a small minority of women perceive their partners as being mainly responsible for providing for their child," said Dr Maureen Marks, a psychologist and expert in the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth. "Men are making up for this loss of status as the main breadwinner by becoming closer to the children, and are more willing to go to antenatal classes and learn about pregnancy," she said.

The study found that nearly half of the women, 44 per cent, said they delayed telling their employers they were pregnant because they were worried how the news would be received. These feeling of unease varied between being scared, 19 per cent, to guilt, 16 per cent and feeling awkward and embarrassed, 15 per cent. Pregnant women still believed there was a negative perception of pregnancy at work.