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Dr Victoria Newton

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University. I am lead for Living Well, Open Societal Challenges

Prior to joining the Open University, I worked at Queen Mary University of London as a Lecturer in Applied Health Research for NIHR CLAHRC North Thames, and at the University of Greenwich as a Research Fellow in Sexual Health.

Research interests

I am an interdisciplinary researcher. My specialist area of interest is reproductive health. I have conducted research into menstruation, contraceptive-experiences, abortion, fertility knowledge, and miscarriage. I also work in applied folklore and health and in particular, vernacular health knowledge. I hold a Masters in Folklore and Cultural Tradition, and a PhD in Sociological Studies, from the University of Sheffield. My AHRC-funded doctoral research examined everyday knowledge and belief about menstruation. I published my doctoral research as a monograph: Everyday Discourses of Menstruation: Cultural and Social Perspectives.  

I am interested in the articulation of sensitive subjects in everyday life, narratives, and the role of informal learning and vernacular knowledge on health-related decision-making. During the pandemic I led a research project on experiences of medication abortion during the Covid-19 pandemic. I recently led a UKRI AHRC-funded project in partnership with Public Health England and the Folklore Society titled: Reproductive Bodylore, the role of vernacular knowledge on women’s contraceptive decision-making. The project took a participatory approach to exploring the role of informal everyday information, communication, and culture in decision-making about contraception.

I am co-investigator on four Open Society Challenges at the Open University:

  • The Gender Pain Gap in Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Across the Lifecourse
  • Challenging Reproductive Injustice for Women with Learning Disabilities: From Menarche to Menopause
  • Challenging Abortion Stigma
  • Early Pregnancy Endings and the Workplace

Teaching interests

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  I supervise doctoral projects on reproductive health, young parenthood and vernacular health knowledge. I write material for OpenLearn, the Open University’s free online learning platform.

Previously at other institutions, I have written and taught courses on qualitative research methods, introduction to folklore, and research and evaluation approaches for clinicians.

Impact and engagement

Throughout my work, I am committed to using insights from research to further our understanding of reproductive health experiences. A large part of my work involves tackling reproductive-related stigma.

My Body My Life is a public engagement project and associated website, which aims to address abortion stigma through storytelling. The exhibition brings academic research into the public domain by responding to the harmful impact of stigma revealed in original empirical research I conducted with Professor Lesley Hoggart.

Bodylore: the role of shared stories in making contraceptive choices is an immersive audio and visual exhibition that centres the contraceptive conversations had throughout the phases of a person’s life. Reflecting the humour and humanity of the voices in the research and making the topic accessible, non-judgemental and interesting for all who visit, the exhibition brings vibrancy and energy to the conversation about contraceptive choice and decision-making.

Externally funded projects

Reproductive Bodylore: the role of vernacular knowledge in women’s contraceptive decision making
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 May 202031 Dec 2023AHRC 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.

Intra-uterine Contraception Impact Funds
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Jun 201731 Mar 2018Bayer 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.


Foregrounding pain in self-managed early medication abortion: A qualitative study (2024-03)
Purcell, Carrie; Newton, Victoria Louise; Bloomer, Fiona and Hoggart, Lesley
BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health ((Early Access))

Employment leave for early pregnancy endings: a biopolitical reproductive governance analysis in England and Wales (2024-01)
Middlemiss, Aimee; Boncori, Ilaria; Brewis, Joanna; Davies, Julie and Newton, Victoria
Gender, Work and Organization, 31(1) (pp. 75-91)

Menstruation and learning disability across the life course: Using a two‐part scoping exercise to co‐produce research priorities (2024)
Earle, Sarah; Ledger, Susan; Newton, Victoria; Rouse, Lorna and Tilley, Elizabeth
British Journal of Learning Disabilities ((Early access))

Vernacular Knowledge about Contraception: an interdisciplinary perspective on myths, misperceptions and lived-experience (2024)
Newton, Victoria Louise
BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health ((Early Access))

Social connectedness and supported self-management of early medication abortion in the UK: experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic and learning for the future (2023)
Hoggart, Lesley; Purcell, Carrie; Bloomer, Fiona; Newton, Victoria and Oluseye, Ayomide
Culture, Health & Sexuality ((Early access))

[Book Review] Ritual & Myths in Nursing: A Social History (2021)
Newton, Victoria
Folklore, 132(1) (pp. 104-105)

Book Review: The Kiss of Death: Contagion, Contamination and Folklore (2021)
Newton, Victoria
Folklore, 132(3) (pp. 330-331)

Young women’s fertility knowledge: partial knowledge and implications for contraceptive risk-taking (2020)
Newton, Victoria; Dickson, Jane and Hoggart, Lesley
BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 46(2)

[Book Review] Diagnosing Folklore: Perspectives on Disability, Health and Trauma by T. Blank and A. Jackson, 2015, University Press of Mississippi (2019)
Newton, Victoria
Folklore, 130(3) (pp. 323-325)

"I think maybe 10 years seems a bit long." Beliefs and attitudes of women who had never used intrauterine contraception (2018-04-12)
Walker, Susan; Hoggart, Lesley; Newton, Victoria and Parker, Michael
BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 44(2)

Provider-based barriers to provision of intrauterine contraception in general practice (2018-03-06)
Hoggart, Lesley; Walker, Susan; Newton, Victoria and Parker, Mike
BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, 44(2) (pp. 82-89)

‘It's good to be able to talk’: An exploration of the complexities of participant and researcher relationships when conducting sensitive research (2017-03-31)
Newton, Victoria Louise
Women’s Studies International Forum, 61 (pp. 93-99)

‘Repeat abortion’, a phrase to be avoided? Qualitative insights into labelling and stigma (2017-01-01)
Hoggart, Lesley; Newton, Victoria and Bury, Louise
Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 43(1) (pp. 26-30)

Predictors of non-use of intrauterine contraception among women aged 18-49 years in a general practice setting in the UK (2016-10-21)
Walker, Susan H.; Newton, Victoria L.; Hoggart, Lesley and Parker, Mike J.
Open Access Journal of Contraception, 7 (pp. 155-160)

Women's experiences of termination for fetal abnormality in a United Kingdom hospital setting: a systematic review protocol (2015-09)
Newton, Victoria Louise and Murphy, Sam
JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 13(9) (pp. 159-167)

Hormonal contraception and regulation of menstruation: a study of young women's attitudes towards ‘having a period’ (2015-07-01)
Newton, Victoria Louise and Hoggart, Lesley
Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 41(3) (pp. 210-215)

Unanticipated bleeding with the etonogestrel implant: advice and therapeutic interventions. (2014-07)
Dickson, Jane; Hoggart, Lesley and Newton, Victoria Louise
Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 40(3) (pp. 158-160)

'I think it depends on the body, with mine it didn't work': explaining young women's contraceptive implant removal. (2013-11)
Hoggart, Lesley; Newton, Victoria Louise and Dickson, Jane
Contraception, 88(5) (pp. 636-640)

Young women's experiences of side-effects from contraceptive implants: a challenge to bodily control (2013-05)
Hoggart, Lesley and Newton, Victoria Louise
Reproductive Health Matters, 21(41) (pp. 196-204)

Time frames and self-hurting: that was then, this is now (2013)
West, Elizabeth; Newton, Victoria Louise and Barton-Breck, Andy
Health, Risk & Society, 15(6-7) (pp. 580-595)

Status passage, stigma and menstrual management: 'Starting' and 'being on' (2012-11)
Newton, Victoria
Social Theory & Health, 10(4) (pp. 392-407)

Folklore and advertising: an examination of traditional themes and motifs in British twenty-first-century television advertising campaigns (2010)
Newton, Victoria Louise
Folk Life: Journal of Ethnological Studies, 48(1) (pp. 48-62)

Everyday Discourses of Menstruation: Cultural and Social Perspectives (2016)
Newton, Victoria Louise
ISBN : 978-1-137-48774-2 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan

‘It can actually make you infertile’: Reproductive bodylore and vernacular knowledge about contraception (2024-06-12)
Newton, Victoria Louise
In : International Society for Contemporary Legend Research: 40th Anniversary - Perspectives on Contemporary Legend (26-30 Jun 2023, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK)

Menstruation and contraception: social and cultural issues on young women's decision making (2015-10)
Newton, Victoria and Hoggart, Lesley
In : North American Forum on Family Planning (14-16 Nov 2015, Chicago) (p 403)

UK abortion study: “I didn't think it would happen to me.” Young women's accounts of preabortion contraceptive use (2015-10)
Hoggart, Lesley and Newton, Victoria
In : North American Forum on Family Planning 2015 (14-16 Nov 2015, Chicago) (p 399)

Aide Memoire: 10 tips for discussing IUC (2018)
Newton, Victoria and Hoggart, Lesley
The Open University

Evaluation Report: HEE North Central and East London & NIHR CLAHRC North Thames Clinical Nurse/Midwife/AHP (NMAHP) Academic Fellowship Scheme (2017-12)
Newton, Victoria Louise and Fulop, Naomi
NIHR CLAHRC North Thames

Evaluation of the HEE North Central and East London & NIHR CLAHRC North Thames Clinical Nurse/Midwife/AHP (NMAHP) Academic Fellowship Scheme EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (2017)
Newton, Victoria Louise and Fulop, Naomi
NIHR CLAHRC North Thames

Evaluation of the HEE North Central and East London & NIHR CLAHRC North Thames Clinical Nurse/Midwife/AHP (NMAHP) Academic Fellowship Scheme: Key Findings (2017)
Newton, Victoria
NIHR CLAHRC North Thames

Young women's experiences of unintended pregnancy and abortion: key findings (2015-10)
Bury, Louise; Hoggart, Lesley and Newton, Victoria Louise
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

"How could this happen to me?": Young women's experiences of unintended pregnancies: a qualitative study (2015-10)
Hoggart, Lesley; Newton, Victoria Louise and Bury, Louise
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

Barriers to intrauterine contraceptive uptake in General Practice: patient and practitioner perspectives - Findings from a mixed-method UK study (2015)
Hoggart, Lesley; Newton, Victoria; Walker, Susan and Parker, Mike
Anglia Ruskin University & The Open University

"I thought i was protected" Abortion, contraceptive uptake and use among young women: a quantitative survey (2014-04)
Bury, Louise; Hoggart, Lesley and Newton, Victoria Louise
The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.