Maternal health history projects secure seed funding

05 January 2017

Two Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) pilot research projects will look at the lessons to be learned from 20th century maternal healthcare.

The first will examine why poor British and American women are less likely to access health services during pregnancy than their wealthier counterparts.

It will consider past health care provision in Philadelphia, Lancashire and Glasgow and interview women with babies born in the late 20th century to understand their healthcare decision making.

Dr Janet Greenlees, Senior Lecturer in History, is leading the pilot project. She said: “This pilot will enable me to explore women’s decision-making surrounding antenatal care in the twentieth century. It will test the continuity of the human experience to see whether current voices surrounding healthcare decision-making can inform gaps in the historical record. This project also enables me to identify resources that will provide insight into the development of maternal care across national boundaries.”

Prenatal screening and the rapid development of diagnostic technologies will form the focus of the second historical study.

Parents’ decision-making in pregnancy in Britain has been transformed over the past forty-five years by the development of prenatal screening methods, and invasive and non-invasive diagnostic technologies.

Dr Vicky Long, Senior Lecturer in History will research the impact upon women and their partners of the tests which provide details including fetal gender and genetic abnormalities.

She said: “This project will enable me to explore the social and ethical issues raised by prenatal screening and diagnosis through analysis of the historical contexts in which these methods were developed and delivered. It also allows me to identify resources which provide insights into these developments that are at risk of being lost or destroyed.”

Both projects have received Seed Awards in Humanities and Social Science from the Wellcome Trust which supports initiatives with the potential to be developed into large-scale research.

The academics are part of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare, a collaborative project with the University of Strathclyde.