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Demystifying contraception

Woman taking pills

A research grant has just been awarded to an OU researcher to demystify contraception.

Dr Victoria Newton, Senior Research Fellow in the OU’s Health and Wellbeing priority research area has been awarded an Early Career Research Grant of £246,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a project titled: Reproductive Bodylore: the role of vernacular knowledge in women’s contraceptive decision-making.

According to Dr Newton, contraception, like any sensitive subject, is surrounded by stories and popular belief. Currently we do not know enough about how this informal knowledge influences women’s contraceptive choices.

“The project draws together folklore studies and health research in a novel way,” said Dr Newton. “The study of vernacular knowledge can tell us much about everyday understandings of health and the body and can provide fresh insights into both individual and group attitudes towards the reproductive body. The whole aim is to facilitate new discussions about contraceptive knowledge and choice.

The project, which will run for 20 months, will culminate in a public engagement exhibition 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. The exhibition will also be showcased at sexual health practitioner conferences.

Partnering with Public Health England and The Folklore Society, phase one will involve re-analysis of project data from several previous studies Dr Newton and Professor Lesley Hoggart undertook on women’s contraceptive use and reproductive control. This analysis will inform the development of topic guides for phase two.

In phase two, Dr Newton will undertake a placement at Public Health England This strand involves participatory research and will involve consulting with, including and working together with up to 20 lay researchers, who will undertake interviews and focus groups among their own friendship/kinship and social networks. The placement will also involve sharing findings and implications for practice via focus groups with clinicians at clinic sites across the UK. This package will conclude with a one-day symposium at The Folklore Society.

The public engagement aspect of this project follows the success of My Body, My Life, which challenged abortion stigma through storytelling.

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