Little is known about the relationship between maternal role development and maternal distress following childbirth. Initial work on maternal role development was undertaken over three decades ago. Since then the profile of childbearing women has changed. Health professionals need to accommodate these changes when dealing with women who are going through the transition to motherhood. Many factors influence the mother's role development, particularly maternal distress. This distress may manifest itself as worry, anxiety or depression, but has not been well described in the literature. Feelings of distress may have a negative affect on a woman's adaptation to motherhood. This study aimed to examine maternal role development and the influence of maternal distress after childbirth.