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School of Health Sciences

Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research

Rapid transfer of knowledge from research into education and practice.

The Centre for Maternal and Child Health carries out high quality research that aims to improve the health and care of women, children, families and communities.

About the centre

In the Centre we recognise the close relationship between maternal and child health and the role of health services and the community in promoting population health. Our research is interdisciplinary and draws on a range of approaches to provide rigorous evidence to inform maternal and child healthcare, policy and practice.

The Centre has international partnerships with researchers in Europe, Scandinavia, South America, Africa, Australia and India. We also have links with professional, voluntary and service user organisations, and local services through which our research has informed healthcare policy and services. Working with midwifery and nursing education at City, University of London, enables rapid transfer of knowledge from research into education and practice.

The Centre comprises academic and research staff as well as doctoral students from a range of clinical, social science and health science backgrounds. Since 2008, the Centre has been engaged in current and recent projects to the value of £9 million, through research grants, consultancy and project work, and has a high profile of research outputs.

SusanAyers

Professor Susan Ayers

Our Research

The Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research carries out high quality research to improve the health and care of women, children, families and communities. The Centre provides an environment for the multi-disciplinary development of ideas and research initiatives in collaboration with professional, voluntary and service user organisations. The Centre has direct links with relevant educational programmes at City, University of London, such as midwifery, health visiting and child nursing, which enable the rapid transfer of research into education and healthcare practice.

Models of Care

Research group lead: Professor Christine McCourt

Our research focuses on evaluating models of maternity, child and family services and care. Our work aims to improve care through rigorous studies using a range of methodologies with an emphasis on evidence-based care, appropriate uses of technology, service change and development and professional and user experience issues. This theme also has a strong inter-disciplinary thread of applying social science concepts and epidemiological approaches to clinical and organisational issues. Much of our work adopts a critical theory perspective, and takes account of the complexity of healthcare interventions and contexts.

We are currently involved in a range of research projects and programmes on issues such as implementation of evidence based practice in maternity care, implementing NICE guidance on birth in different settings, factors influencing the uptake of midwifery units, trialling of home monitoring of blood pressure, development and tribally of a group model of ante- and postnatal care (see projects), inter-professional relationships and retention in midwifery and health visiting and analysis of maternity outcomes by time of day and day of the week. Areas of interest within the group include concepts of choice, risk and safety and their relationship with service delivery and change, professionalisation processes and experiences, gender and healthcare and concepts of motherhood, childhood and the family. Our work is funded by a range of sources, including the National Institute for Health Research, the European Union and the Medical Research Council.

Our findings have been published in high impact journals and presented at conferences around the world. We have established links with a range of user, professional and policy organisations and university departments at local, national and international levels. Our work has influenced the development of maternity services throughout the United Kingdom (UK), and has impacted on health policy and guidelines in this area.

Example Research Projects

Additional information on our current research projects can be found on the Centre for Maternal and Child Health’s Research’s blog.

  • BUMP Programme
  • Factors influencing the use of freestanding and alongside midwifery units in England (MU Study)
  • REACH Pregnancy Programme (Pregnancy Circles)
  • How can NICE recommendations on place of birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies be implemented in practice? (NICE Birthplace Action)
  • The Collaborating in Pregnancy and Early years (COPE) project aim is to improve collaboration between healthcare professionals delivering care for women and their families during and after pregnancy.
  • Direct-entry midwives moving into Health Visiting
  • Respectful care in maternity (doctoral project)
  • NICE Birth Place Action Project

Maternal and Child Mental Health

Research group lead: Professor Susan Ayers

Our research focusses on the mental health and psychological wellbeing of mothers, their partners and children. Our work has three key areas: identifying mental health needs of women and their families during pregnancy and after birth; improving screening for mental health problems; and innovations in the delivery of mental health care and treatment.

This multidisciplinary group comprises 9 academic and research staff and 6 doctoral students working on projects ranging from locally focused studies of mental health screening in London to international studies of mental health in women and children. Current and recent research includes examining women's perinatal mental health in developing countries; a national survey of the well-being of parents with very preterm babies; studies of birth trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in women after birth; and evaluations of internet self-help interventions to reduce postnatal psychological problems.

We have established links with NHS Trusts and user-representative organisations in the UK, as well as international links with researchers in Europe, America, and Australasia. This includes the International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research, an international research initiative which is run by members of this group.

Additional information on our current research projects can be found on the Centre for Maternal and Child Health’s Research’s blog.

Example Research projects

Public Health, Social Diversity and Inequalities in Maternal and Child Health

Research Group Lead: Dr Katherine Curtis-Tyler

Our research focuses on population health, preventive action and health care for women and children including socially and economically marginalised groups, including issues of equity of access to and quality of care. We aim to describe inequalities in maternal and child health outcomes to inform public health policies and improve services for women, children and their families. Research includes young teenage parenting, mothering and feeding children with neurodisability, maternal and child health in relation to HIV/AIDS, and the health of  homeless and migrant populations, obesity in pregnancy and in children, sickle cell and female genital mutilation. We are currently working on projects ranging from locally focussed studies in East London to national studies, such as on prevalence of FGM and the timing of birth  and its outcome by time of day and day of the week  and international comparisons of perinatal indicators. We use a range of methodological approaches including  quantitative and qualitative methods and linkage and secondary analysis of national and linked datasets.

We have well established links with Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust and public health departments in East London as well as with the Department of Health, Home Office, the Office for National Statistics and non-governmental organisations such as Maternity Action and the NCT and international networks such as ROAM (Reproductive Outcomes and Migration) and Euro-Peristat. Our work has informed the development of maternal and child healthcare services and policy in England and internationally.

Education and Community Health

Research Group Lead: Professor Debra Salmon

Our research focuses on developing care pathways that link community and clinical services for women and children and on research into effectiveness of education to support practice. Our work aims to improve care in the community for women and children healthcare through rigorous qualitative and quantitative evaluations with an emphasis on evaluating educational and community interventions, health promotion in the community, and outreach with hard to reach or disadvantaged communities. This work is incorporated into educational programmes preparing the next generation of professionals working with women and children.

We are currently working on projects including the Toolkit project which is producing resources to improve health visiting interventions with vulnerable families, and work to prevent long term obesity through increasing exercise by women during pregnancy. Our findings have been published in high impact journals and presented at conferences around the world. We have established links with Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust, East London Mental Health NHS Trust and a range of other health Trusts, as well as the community nursing research organisation International Collaboration for Community Health Nursing Research.

Research Student Projects

PhD students and MSc students carry out a number of research projects on topics in our research areas of: models of maternity care; maternal and child mental health; education and community health; and Public health, social diversity and inequalities in maternal and child health. Examples of current research projects include maternity care in Malawi, the impact of birth trauma on couples, how mothers and babies perceive emotional expressions, online therapy for perinatal psychological problems, teenage parenthood, and supporting adolescent mothers to breastfeed.

More information on postgraduate programmes can be found here:

Networks

Midwifery Unit Network

In collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives, the Midwifery Unit Network offers support to those wishing to develop midwifery units (birth centres), and to already established midwifery units. The network acts as a hub to share good practice and information resources, and be a community of practice with a shared philosophy essential to offer consistent, excellent and safe care for women and their families.

The aim of the Midwifery Unit Network is to maximise potential for a positive childbirth experience, and to enhance the physical and psychological wellbeing of childbearing women and their babies, through the promotion and support of midwifery units (birth centres).

International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research

Established in 2005, this is a network of researchers and clinicians who are working together to reduce birth trauma and perinatal PTSD across the world.

The International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research website provides information on the latest perinatal PTSD research, events and an interactive blog where researchers can comment and post questions. The latest research papers on perinatal PTSD are posted regularly.

Parent Research Advisory Group

The Centre has a Research Advisory Group of parents and parents-to-be who work with us on our research projects. For example, parents have helped develop projects, research grant proposals, screening questionnaires, and recruitment strategies for participants.

Debra Salmon

Professor Debra Salmon