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The attachment in fetal imaging (AFI) study logo - which is a black outline drawing of two parents and a child on a beige background.
Health Series: Announcements

Exploring how the parent-fetal bond may be affected by the experience of imaging during pregnancy

Launch of the Attachment in Fetal Imaging (AFI) study, exploring how parent experiences of pregnancy scanning may impact the developing parent-fetal bond.

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

Emily Skelton is a Research Sonographer and MPhil/PhD student within the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London. Earlier this month, she held a virtual launch event for her doctoral project, the Attachment in Fetal Imaging (AFI) study.

The online event was an opportunity for Emily to present her progress during the first six months of the project to all those involved so far through a PowerPoint presentation shared through MS Teams.

Her audience comprised her academic supervisors (Professor Susan Ayers, Dr Christina Malamateniou, City, University of London and Professor Mary Rutherford, King’s College London), parent project collaborator (Julia Kourmpidou) and two of the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) professional officers (Dr Rachel Harris, Professional and Education Manager & Research Lead, and Gill Harrison Professional Officer for Ultrasound, and Associate Professor of Radiography at City, University of London).

Screenshot from the AFI study virtual launch. Top row (L-R): Gill Harrison (SCoR, City, University of London), Dr Rachel Harris (SCoR), Prof Mary Rutherford (KCL). Middle row (L-R): Julia Kourmpidou (parent project collaborator), Prof Susan Ayers (City, University of London), Dr Christina Malamateniou (City, University of London). Lower right: Emily Skelton (Research Student, City University of London / CoR Doctoral Fellow)

Research funding

Emily’s project receives funding from the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London, and the City Radiography Research Fund, which contribute toward her study materials and conference attendances, as well as additional funding from the College of Radiographers (CoR) Doctoral Fellowship grant which allows Emily to study part-time whilst continuing to work on the iFIND project at King’s College London; this large-scale multi-centre project uses artificial intelligence and innovative imaging and robotic technologies to enhance routine mid-trimester fetal anomaly screening.

Screenshot taken from a fetal MRI scan, taken as part of the 'Intelligent Fetal Imaging and Diagnosis' (iFIND) project at King's College London

Parents' experiences of pregnancy scanning

Whilst the use of advanced antenatal imaging technologies such as 3D or 4D ultrasound or fetal MRI to complement routine scanning is becoming more common, the way in which parents experience them is not well studied. In particular, there is a lack of research into father’s perspectives of imaging during pregnancy, or how scanning is experienced by parents when a health condition is diagnosed or suspected with a baby in the womb.

The AFI study aims to address this knowledge gap. During the project, expectant first-time parents will be invited to share their experiences of imaging (either ultrasound or MRI imaging) during pregnancy. These will be analysed against questionnaire responses to generate a unique insight of how this milestone pregnancy event can affect the bond parents develop to their unborn babies. The work aims to identify key themes relating to expectant parents’ experience of antenatal imaging which will be used to develop evidence-based recommendations to promote parent-centred care in antenatal imaging, and ensure parents are fully supported during pregnancy scans.

Speaking about the importance of the AFI study, Emily said:

“With advanced imaging technologies becoming more integrated into clinical practices, and at a time when antenatal care services have seen have great changes because of Covid-19 restrictions, it has never been more important to hear parent voices, and truly consider the impact of the scan experience during pregnancy and beyond.”

Reflecting on the progress of her research thus far, she said:

Although embarking on a research project during a global pandemic has had its challenges, I have still been making progress with my work. During these first six-months, I have been working closely with my supervisors, project collaborators from Antenatal Results and Choices and Fathers Reaching Out and parent volunteers to finalise the study design and prepare to begin recruiting parents in early 2021.

"I had the opportunity to present my project at the virtual conference, ‘Radiography 2020: Patient centred care in the era of artificial intelligence and technological innovation’, which was organised by Dr Christina Malamateniou and hosted by City, University of London in July 2020, and have recently published an paper detailing key recommendations for using electronic consenting approaches to conduct research remotely."


Emily is also currently working on the next research output of her project, which will be a systematic review of the literature around imaging and parent-fetal bonding.

Find out more

Visit the Division of Midwifery and Radiography page at the City, University of London website.

Follow Emily Skelton on Twitter.

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