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Reproduction, sexualities and health

Work in this theme ranges from research into experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood to the experiences of men who pay for sex. Key themes include the relationship between the body, health and identity and understandings of reproductive and sexual health across the life course. All the research in this theme is underpinned by a commitment to challenging and improving practice in reproductive and sexual health care.

Most recently we have been exploring the theoretical and empirical connections between the beginning and end of life with a particular emphasis on reproductive loss. The Open University Birth and Death Research Group is hosted within the Faculty. Our collaborative work with colleagues in the Social History of Learning Disability Group on the reproductive rights and choices of people with learning disabilities can be followed by listening to The Secret History of Sterilisation on I-Tunes U.

We’re also proud to host the British Sociological Association’s Human Reproduction Study Group and the new collaborative partnership, The Sexuality Alliance (SALLY Group).

Pregnant - sculpture by Alison Lapper

 

Dr Lesley Hoggart talks about sexual health work and research

Our research

Current projects include:

Pre-conception care for women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes: what are the facilitators and barriers to uptake?

Rates of diabetes in pregnancy are increasing rapidly; a trend that looks likely to continue. Diabetes can lead to serious complications for women and babies during pregnancy and birth. Pre-conception care is known to have a positive impact on these health risks; however, the uptake can be low and it is not clear how improve this. Why do some women not access pre-conception services? Understanding that women do not always ‘plan’ a pregnancy will be part of the solution.

This research aims to review the existing literature in the field and conduct empirical work to understand why women with pre-existing diabetes do, or do not, access pre-conception care, focusing specifically on the factors that facilitate or discourage uptake. The research also aims to investigate the views of staff and stakeholders in this area to explore their views on existing and future provision of services.

This research is funded by the NIHR’s HTA programme and is being conducted by The Open University in collaboration with Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and University of Birmingham.

Visit the project website. Sarah Earle and Cathy Lloyd

A mixed method investigation into the acceptability of intrauterine contraception, from the perspectives of women, GPs and Practice Nurses

The overall aim of the study is to understand and investigate the acceptability, or otherwise, of intrauterine contraception (the intrauterine system ‘IUS’ and the intrauterine device ‘IUD’) amongst women across the age range 18-49. It will also explore any barriers that can be identified by two groups of professionals: general practitioners, and practice nurses.

The study is funded by Bayer PLC, and is being undertaken by The Open University in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University.

The findings from this study can be found here.

Lesley Hoggart and Victoria Newton

‘I didn’t think it would happen to me’: a mixed method study of unwanted pregnancy and abortion among young women in England and Wales

The study aims to explore the behavioural, social and service related factors that are associated with unintended and unwanted pregnancy amongst young women (under 25 years). The study uses a multi-stranded approach to investigate different aspects of young women’s experiences of one or more unintended pregnancies and abortion. Component 1 is an audit of UK abortion service provider Marie Stopes International (MSI) data over the past 5 years for clients aged 16-24 years. Component 2 involves a cross-sectional survey among MSI clients aged 16-24 years who have had an abortion for the first time, or a subsequent abortion. Component 3 is a longitudinal investigation using in-depth qualitative interviews with 40 to 60 young women who have had one or more abortions.

This research aims to review the existing literature in the field and conduct empirical work to understand why women with pre-existing diabetes do, or do not, access pre-conception care, focusing specifically on the factors that facilitate or discourage uptake. The research also aims to investigate the views of staff and stakeholders in this area to explore their views on existing and future provision of services.

The study is funded by, and being undertaken in collaboration with, Marie Stopes International.

The reports from the study are below:

Lesley Hoggart and Victoria Newton

Contraception and Menstruation: Social and cultural influences on young women’s decision making

Hormonal contraceptives (the Pill, contraceptive implant, Depo-Provera injection, and 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.

The study is funded by the British Academy.

This research is funded by the NIHR’s HTA programme and is being conducted by The Open University in collaboration with Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and University of Birmingham.

Victoria Newton and Lesley Hoggart

ESRC Seminar Series: Understanding the young sexual body

The seminar series develops inter-professional understandings of young people’s sexual bodies across key policy areas through facilitating a creative dialogue and fostering partnerships between academics and practitioners. The series thus draws together two groups: firstly: leading academics, early career researchers and PhD students; and secondly: practitioners and agencies dealing with young people’s sexual health and education in the UK.

Participating Universities are: The Open University, Kings College London, the University of Cardiff, Anglia Ruskin University and the Institute of Education

Final event: Understanding the young sexual body symposium

Sarah Earle and Cathy Lloyd

Completed research projects

Colleagues have carried out a range of projects in the following areas:

  • Ante-natal screening (Carol Komaromy)
  • Disability and facilitated sex (Sarah Earle)
  • Health literacy and framing of health messages in the gay community (MacKian and colleagues, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council)
  • IES Platform: scoping and feasibility - Preparation for an RCT on post-partum weight loss (Rose Barbour and colleagues, funded by the MRC)
  • Perceptions of future fertility among young people with cancer and their professional carers (Rose Barbour and colleagues, funded by the ESRC)
  • Positive outcomes and teenage pregnancy (Rachel Thomson and colleagues, funded by Brook)
  • Post-natal depression: evaluating an intervention (Sarah Earle, funded by Northampton PCT)
  • Reasons for sub-optimal uptake of folic acid during pregnancy (Rose Barbour and colleagues, funded by the Jennifer Brown Trust)
  • Sex in Cyberspace (Sarah Earle and colleagues). The results of this innovative study can be found in Sex in Cyberspace: men who pay for sex published by Ashgate.
  • Sexual health services provision (Sarah Earle, funded by the Vale of Aylesbury, Chiltern & South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe Primary Care Trusts)

Potential research projects

We’re actively looking for more postgraduate students to join us. For further information on potential research projects, supervisors and applying to study please see our Reproductive and sexual health page within The Open University Research Degrees Prospectus.