Dr Victoria Newton is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University. Victoria’s research focuses on reproductive health – contraception, abortion, menstruation and fertility. Victoria coordinates the Reproduction, Sexualities & Sexual Health Research Group within the School. She specialises in qualitative research, with a focus on sensitive subjects, and has worked in reproductive health since undertaking her PhD at the University of Sheffield. Her PhD was funded by the AHRC and explored ‘folklore’ and everyday knowledge and belief about menstruation.
Prior to joining the OU in December 2017, Victoria worked at Queen Mary University of London as a Lecturer in Applied Health Research for NIHR CLAHRC North Thames. She also held an Honorary Lectureship at UCL. In 2010-2013, Victoria worked as a Research Fellow in Sexual Health at the University of Greenwich, before becoming a Research Associate at the OU (2013-2016).
Victoria’s most recent publications include:
Newton, V.L. (2016) Everyday Discourses of Menstruation Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hoggart, L., Walker, S., Newton, V.L. and Parker, M. (2018) Practitioner-based barriers to the universal provision of Intrauterine Contraception in General Practice. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health Published Online First: 06 March 2018. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2017-101805
Walker, S., Newton, V.L., Hoggart, L and Parker, M. (2018) ‘I think maybe 10 years seems a bit long’: beliefs and attitudes of women who had never used IUD. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health Published Online First: 22 January 2018. doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2017-101798
Newton, V.L. (2017) It’s good to be able to talk: An exploration of participant and researcher roles when conducting ‘sensitive’ research. Women’s Studies International Forum, Special Issue: ‘Rapport and Collusion: tracing common threads in research’, March - April 2017, 93-99.
Hoggart, L., Newton, V.L. and Bury, L. (2017) ‘Repeat Abortion’, a phrase to be avoided? Qualitative insights into labelling and stigma. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare, 43:1, 26-30.
Victoria is also working on a project challenging abortion stigma, which has resulted in the multi-media My Body My Life Travelling Exhibition and website: http://mybody-mylife.org/
Victoria is an interdisciplinary researcher with research interests in the reproductive body, sexual and reproductive health, contraception, menstruation, fertility and abortion. She is also interested in the articulation of sensitive subjects in the everyday, narratives, and the role of informal learning and vernacular knowledge on decision-making. She is a member of The Folklore Society, Warburg Institute, London.
Victoria is currently involved in the following research projects:
(2018) Development funding for IUC Study outputs – ‘Aide memoire’ and MP4 animation. In collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University. Medical Education Grant Bayer PLC, Principal Investigator.
(2018) Challenging Abortion Stigma: Piloting and Evaluating an Abortion Stories Booklet in a Clinical Setting. Higher Education Impact Fund, Principal Investigator.
Previous projects include:
(2015-16) Dissemination funding for IUC project, Bayer PLC, Co-Investigator.
(2014-2016) A mixed-method investigation into the acceptability of intrauterine contraception (IUC), from the perspectives of women, GPs and Practice Nurses. In collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University, funded by Bayer PLC, Co-Investigator. This study is an investigation into the acceptability of intrauterine contraception, from the perspectives of women, GPs and Practice Nurses. It explores the barriers to uptake in Primary Care.
(2012-2014) Investigating relationships between post abortion sexual and contraceptive behaviour and unwanted pregnancies among young women (under 25) in England and Wales: a qualitative longitudinal study. Funded by Marie Stopes International, Co-Investigator. The study aims to explore the behavioural, social and service related factors that are associated with why young women under 25 years who have had an abortion continue to practise risk-behaviour that might result in further unintended pregnancy and repeat abortion(s).
(2010-11) Understanding LARC Adherence, funded by the London Sexual Health Commissioning Group, £30,000, Research Fellow.The research examines the contraception careers taken by teenagers who have decided to have their contraceptive implants removed. It focuses on learning about their sexual relationships, history of contraceptive use, reasons for selecting the implant, and reasons for removing the implant.
(2011) Contraception and Menstruation: Social and cultural influences on young women’s decision making, funded by a British Academy small grant, Lead-Investigator. Hormonal contraceptives (the Pill, contraceptive implant, Depo-Provera injection, Mirena coil) can cause side-effects, the most common being changes to uterine bleeding patterns. This study aims to provide in-depth insight into the specific factors associated with bleeding by examining young women’s informal learning and vernacular knowledge about menstruation and contraception, and analysing the impact this has on their contraceptive decision making.
(2011) Young Women’s Fertility Knowledge: a qualitative study, jointly funded the Centre for Applied Social Research and Greenwich Community Health Services, Principal Investigator. The purpose of the research was to examine young women’s knowledge about fertility. It also addressed issues concerning perceived risk of pregnancy, contraceptive decision making and reproductive choice.
Combating abortion stigma
Victoria is currently involved in My Body My Life, a public engagement project and associated website, which aims to address abortion stigma through storytelling. The exhibition is an academic/practitioner collaboration led by the Open University. It brings academic research into the public domain by responding to the harmful impact of stigma revealed in original empirical research. Women’s real stories of abortion are printed on items of clothing in different shapes and sizes, denoting the ordinariness of abortion. Visitors ‘browse’ women’s stories. The exhibition is powerful, yet understated. The project has a multimedia installation that enables participants to watch/listen to women's stories. It is also interactive, allowing people to contribute their own stories.
Supporting contraception consultations and informed choice
Victoria is also working on two resources to support intrauterine contraceptive consultations:
1) a 10 step ‘Aide Memoire’ for clinicians who counsel about IUC
2) a short ‘myth-busting’ animation for patients, which addresses common concerns about intrauterine contraception.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Jan/2020||31/Aug/2021||AHRC Arts & Humanities Research Council|
Unintended pregnancy remains a Public Health concern, yet we still do not know enough about the influences on women's contraceptive choices. Existing research calls for more insight about the influences of women's informal social networks on contraceptive choice. That is - stories, anecdotes, 'friend of a friend' tales, rumour, personal experience narratives and other informal communications. This project is highly significant in that it explores vernacular knowledge about the reproductive body and contraception through drawing together folklore studies and health research. An approach which is uniquely innovative and novel - there is at present no existing study on the topic in the UK and only very limited international focus. The project addresses the question: How does vernacular knowledge influence women's contraceptive choices and mediate their experiences of reproductive control? It has a number of aims: 1) To explore and document the greatest possible range of vernacular knowledge about the reproductive body and contraception 2) To offer an interpretation of this data, analysing and theorising how vernacular knowledge about contraception is transmitted between friendship and kinship groups, and how it may influence attitudes, behaviour, and experience 3) To engage with policy and practice and to enhance practitioner understandings about women's vernacular knowledge of the reproductive body, and to make appropriate suggestions for improving services. In seeking to address these aims a multistrand approach comprising two Work Packages and a dissemination stage will be employed. Work Package 1 will involve re-analysis of project data from a number of previous studies Victoria Newton (PI) and Lesley Hoggart (Co-I) have undertaken on women's contraceptive use and reproductive control (as listed in the case for support). This re-analysis will inform the development of the topic guides for the gathering of new qualitative data in WP2. In this way, the new research will be firmly grounded in research undertaken in the UK since 2010. It will provide a solid platform from which to develop robust and informed research tools (the 'prompt topics') for WP2. Work Package 2 is a placement for the PI (VN) at Public Health England (PHE). This strand involves participatory research and will involve consulting with, including and working together with up to 20 lay researchers, who will be recruited via PHE's networks. Volunteer researchers will undertake interviews and focus groups among their own friendship/kinship and social networks. They will also search for media/social media stories stories. Data from this strand will be made available digitally via the Open University's Open Access Data Archive (ORDO).The placement will also involve sharing findings and implications for practice via 6-8 focus groups with clinicians at clinic sites across the UK. WP2 will culminate in a one-day symposium at The Folklore Society. Dissemination: The project will culminate in a Public Engagement exhibition co-hosted in a public space in London - the geographic location of project partners (Public Health England and The Folklore Society). The exhibition will be designed and curated by The Liminal Space. The Reproductive Bodylore exhibition will be interactive and visitors will be invited to contribute their own thoughts and stories about contraception around the theme of 'I heard that....' The aim of the exhibition will be to demystify stories of contraception and invite engagement. The exhibition will also be showcased at sexual health practitioner conferences - eg, FIAPAC and RCOG to promote debate around informal communication, misinformation and individual contraceptive choice.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Jun/2017||31/Mar/2018||Bayer Bayer HealthCare|
Developing resources to support IUC consultations and address barriers to uptake in UK General Practice. Design and methods: The research draws on qualitative and quantitative data from practitioners and patients in General Practice in the UK to identify any barriers to uptake of IUC. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n=13) and a survey (n=209) with practitioners. We also interviewed women patients who had never used IUC (n=30), and conducted a survey (n=873 never users). Interviews were analysed utilising thematic analysis and surveys using descriptive statistics. Through our analysis we identified educational and informational needs for both practitioners and women, which are not presently addressed. Results: Lack of knowledge about IUC was cited by practitioners as a barrier to recommending IUC, by those practitioners, (mainly nurses) who were not trained to fit. Patient data indicated that there were concerns about IUC which were not addressed in standard informational leaflets, and some myths and misapprehensions about IUC were common, for example, concerns about the longevity of the device, what happens to the device within the body, and misperceptions about the risks and method of action of the device. In seeking answers to their queries, participants often looked to informal networks as a knowledge source in addition to seeking the opinions of family and friends. In comparing the concerns of our participants with standard patient information literature, we found evidence that information for patients is not sufficiently tailored to concerns expressed by never users. In addition, practitioners report being reluctant to discuss IUC as a method because of their own lack of confidence in their knowledge. Both information for patients, and increased support for practitioners providing this information, is needed to overcome this ‘double barrier’. Conclusions/Outputs To address this issue we have developed a 10 step ‘Aide Memoire’ to support IUC contraceptive consultations, and a short film for women to address the concerns reported by never-users in our study.