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How can healthcare professionals better support women during pregnancy?

Wellbeing of Women has invested £11,742 in Dr James Harris’ research into analysing and improving how healthcare professionals address pregnant women’s safety concerns

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Despite being a happy, exciting time for many women and their families, there are many big and small health problems that can come up during pregnancy – and research has confirmed that women themselves are an invaluable resource when it comes to identifying them.

However, women often report that these safety concerns are dismissed by staff. Hierarchies within hospital staff structures can make it difficult for women to speak up, and healthcare professionals don’t always respond appropriately because of the organisational and work pressures they face.

One place that women can find help and advice is a telephone triage line, which women can ring with any worries about their pregnancy. After speaking to a woman seeking help, the person who responds to the call can decide whether the woman should come into the hospital or go to support elsewhere.

There has been plenty of research into how women can be encouraged to seek help, but what hasn’t been studied in-depth is how staff themselves should respond to these women.

In his project, midwifery clinical academic and Wellbeing of Women researcher Dr James Harris will carefully analyse how staff respond to women with safety concerns over these triage lines and listen to focus groups made up of pregnant women to understand their experiences of seeking help.

Not only will he look at how often women use these lines and the reasons for their calls, but judge the quality of call handlers’ responses and explore what aspects of these calls help or hinder women access the help and advice they need.

Ultimately, the research will help healthcare professionals to support women during pregnancy, building on previous research with the same aim.

By improving this communication, mothers-to-be and their families can have a happy, healthy pregnancy with the assurance that their concerns are addressed in the best way possible.

Our health information on pregnancy and birth

As a women’s health charity, part of what we do is improve awareness and understanding of women's reproductive and gynaecological health.