Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences


Parents and Researchers Come Together to Develop Operative Birth Research

15 February 2021

Last November we held the second in a series of parent workshops, bringing together people who work and have experience of operative birth to shape research. Read our experience of the session and view Carmen's interview giving her experience of taking part as a PhD student.

Parents and Researchers Come Together to Develop Operative Birth

In November last year we held the second in a series of parent workshops informing research here at WEISS to improve planning and delivery of operative birth (any type of childbirth requiring instruments or assistance, such as c-section, forceps or ventouse).

It is the start of a project developed by our Clinical Co-Director Dimitrios Siassakos, with a cross-WEISS team, to involve a representative group of parents with experience of operative birth in how we identify issues and design solutions through research.

The team at WEISS include two clinicians, Shireen Jaufuraully and Brian Dromey, who have a joint research based and medical role; Carmen Salvadores Fernandez, a PhD Student at the Nanoengineering Systems Lab; and Dan Taylor, our Public Engagement Manager.

The meeting brought together almost twenty parents from across the United Kingdom in a 2 ½ hour digital meeting to discuss three main topics:

  • How MRI scans can be used at late pregnancy or early labour to help plan operative birth and improve outcomes
  • The design and use of sensors in this type of intervention (or operation)
  • To explore together how this group should look and feel in future to co-develop a sustainable group.

"It was really interesting to hear about everyone’s experiences and how those would impact” Parent Representative

The way we designed and promoted the group was essential, to ensure that we were able to reach beyond regular university networks and involve parents with a broad range of perspectives and experience. We did this by including parents in the design, then promoting through a wide-ranging network we’ve worked with over the last year, including charities, community organisations and local councils.

We actually had twice the number of people sign up as spaces, so we selected people based on registration questions we'd asked people to complete, to bring together a group who'd heard about us from a range of different places and with a range of operative birth experiences. We made sure those who couldn't attend this time knew there would be other opporutnties in the future and have sent them a recap of the day.

The session spent most time on the two research topics, with a section at the end using participants’ feedback to shape future groups and an optional half hour beforehand to get to know each other before getting to business. We sent out small tea packages for everyone to enjoy together in the first half hour but sadly they were delayed in the post and no one got theirs in time!

The discussion around each research topic began with a short presentation before using breakout rooms to address specific questions through facilaition and activities to explore people’s opinions and ideas related to the topic.

“As much as last time meeting in person was great, this online process is quicker and I felt we covered more” – Parent Representative

“The series of breakout sessions worked well with a good number of participants” – Parent Representative

We made sure the session had plenty of time for discussions (although there’s never enough and we were asked to give more in future!), which were full of important and informative direct experiences from parents and contributions to help shape the purpose, design and communication of both research studies, including:

  • When to communicate these techniques and advice on how to do this in a way that doesn’t feel like coercion, providing the information to make an informed choice
  • How to design the technologies, including advice about how these should look, feel and how to use the outputs from these
  • Ideas about what these techniques could be used to monitor and what parents might be less comfortable with given the intimate nature of these data and images.

We’re now using these insights to shape the research design and an upcoming ethics application to test these techniques when women are in labour, which we’ll be bringing back to the group in future.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K4OuxhyjmQ

Carmen talked to us about her experience of taking part in the workshop and how it's shaped her research and thinking since.
“Thanks for the very useful session which you arranged today. It was really good and informative. I enjoyed to talk and participate in it” – Parent Representative

The session seemed to work well, with good feedback, including that the researchers’ style and manner helped to make everyone feel comfortable and encouraged sharing. People also found the structure and use of breakout rooms useful, with the content interesting and understandable.

However there is plenty of room for improvement too, while getting used to breakout rooms we repeatedly cut people off too abruptly when coming back into a bigger group (which is particularly an issue when discussing personal and sometimes distressing topics), and people asked for a wider range of ways to participate so everyone felt able to contribute. We were also asked to give more of a platform to people’s real experiences, which we want to integrate more in future!

Due to the topics discussed, and the nature of digital meetings where participants are often physically alone, it is important for us to further consider how we can support people during and after meetings in cases where the discussion may bring up difficult feelings.   

Both a community and a parent experience representative have joined our project team, and we will be working with them to turn these into regular meetings that will be designed with parents, a model called co-design, to make sure they suit parents needs and interests, instead of basing these around our researchers.

We’re hoping the group will continue to develop over the next year to the point that we’re able to have a sustainable series of workshops co-designed between our research and parent partners, in which everyone feels empowered to give and challenge opinions, as well as suggest and lead new lines of enquiry.

If you have any questions about the running of the group or how to get involved please contact Dan Taylor by emailing him at d.s.taylor@ucl.ac.uk.