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How can maternity services empower pregnant women affected by trauma?

Wellbeing of Women (WoW), in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), has awarded £254,034 for a NIHR-WoW Doctoral Fellowship to midwife Joanne Cull. She will investigate what information and support can be given to help pregnant women who have been negatively affected by trauma

Co-funded by

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Over a third of pregnant women each year in the UK (250,000 women) have experienced trauma such as domestic abuse, childhood trauma or sexual assault. These experiences can leave a lasting impact: women who have suffered trauma are more likely to have mental and physical health problems, and be addicted to alcohol, smoking, or other drugs.

Maternity care professionals do not routinely discuss trauma with pregnant women, and there is no standard guidance on how and when women’s trauma histories should be discussed. Further, many women will choose not to disclose trauma, but would benefit from support.

Wellbeing of Women is funding Joanne’s doctoral fellowship at the University of Central Lancashire, which will explore how maternity services can help pregnant women who have been affected by trauma.


Joanne has gathered a ‘research collective’ to support the study, which includes women who have experienced trauma (such as those seeking asylum, victims of rape, sexual abuse and/or female genital mutilation and sufferers of birth trauma), as well as experts from the voluntary sector, and specialist midwives. She will review relevant studies, as well as information produced by organisations that support trauma survivors, and carry out interviews with pregnant women, healthcare professionals and experts from the voluntary sector.

Together with the research collective, she will develop a support package that includes how and when women’s trauma histories should be discussed within maternity care, resources that can be provided to all women (whether or not they disclose a history of trauma), and a training tool for maternity-care professionals on how to sensitively discuss trauma.

In the post-doctoral period, Joanne will test that the support package is helpful to pregnant women and healthcare professionals, with the aim of rolling it out across the country.