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Addressing Inequalities in Women’s Access to and Experience of Care during Pregnancy through Immersive and Interactive Technology

Project Description

Pregnant women and their partners engage in self-care by negotiating and shaping boundaries (e.g., objects, activities, places) in everyday life. What happens during pregnancy and women’s experiences of birth and the postnatal period has profound long-term consequences for parents and their social network (e.g., family and friends). For example, women often struggle to self-diagnose (distinguish between ‘normal’ pregnancy changes and complications), and self- triage (decide whether to seek help, where and how urgently) during pregnancy.

When seeking help from healthcare professionals, they can find it difficult to engage with, navigate and negotiate access to care, making it difficult to actively engage in care decisions. Women who live socially complex lives (e.g. young and single mothers, refugees, ethnic minority groups) are amongst those who are particular at risk of delayed access and uptake of services, increasing the chance of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes.

Digital technologies are creating opportunities to support pregnant women, relatives and healthcare professionals by facilitating access to information, remote communication and monitoring of health conditions (e.g., pre-eclampsia), recreating life experiences (e.g., through virtual worlds), helping to build self-confidence and sharing experiences, information and support with others. Although some work in maternal health has taken place in low-income countries, there is a lack of attention in understanding and designing technology to support the everyday life experience of pregnant women living in complex social circumstances in developed countries (i.e., UK).


To get an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of pregnant women living in complex social circumstances and co-design socio-technical prototypes that can enable greater agency and engagement in self-care. The project is informed by theoretical frameworks for health interventions and a narrative review conducted by the supervisors on pregnant women’s use of technologies.

Research Questions:

1. How do women living in complex social circumstances experience and practically cope with their everyday care needs and safety concerns during pregnancy?
a. What are their technologically mediated and unmediated care practices?
2. What opportunities arise for technology to address the identified socio-cultural challenges?
3. How does technology shape the women and partner’s socio-cultural practices (intended and unintended consequences)?

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

How to apply

The online application and supporting documents are due by Monday 21st January 2019.

Any applications submitted after the deadline will not be accepted for the studentship scheme.

References should arrive no later than Monday 28th January 2019.

Applicants are advised to apply well in advance of the deadline, so that we can let you know if anything is missing from your application.

Required Materials:

1. Online application form
2. Two academic references
3. Transcripts
4. Degree certificate/s (if awarded)
5. Curriculum Vitae
6. CSE Studentship Form
7. English language qualification

Applications which are not complete by the deadline will not be considered for the studentship scheme. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure the application form and documents are received by the relevant deadlines.

All applications must be submitted online, along with the supporting documents as per the instructions on the website.

Please ensure that all email addresses, for yourself and your referees, are correct on the application form.

Project / Funding Enquiries

Application enquiries to
Closing date for applications – 21st January 2019

Funding Notes

This research project is one of a number of projects in the College of Science and Engineering. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project that receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding.

Home/EU Applicants:

This project is eligible for a fully funded College of Science and Engineering studentship that includes:

• A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years
• An annual tax free stipend of £14,777 (2018/19)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

International Applicants:

This project is eligible for a College of Science and Engineering studentship that includes:

• A full international fee waiver for 3.5 years
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

International candidates must be able to fund their living costs for the duration of the studentship.


1. Mackintosh, N., Verdezoto, N., Gong, Q. “‘DEPAC’: Digital enablement, promise and uncertainty in maternity care.” UoL Tiger Team, Research and Enterprise Division, 2017-18.
2. Aldoory, L., Roberts, E. B., Bushar, J., & Assini-Meytin, L. C. (2018). Exploring the Use of Theory in a National Text Message Campaign: Addressing Problem Recognition and Constraint Recognition for Publics of Pregnant Women. Health communication, 33(1), 41-48. DOI:
3. Aarhus, R., & Ballegaard, S. A. (2010). Negotiating boundaries: managing disease at home. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1223-1232). ACM. DOI:
4. Mackintosh, N., Rance, S., Carter, W., & Sandall, J. (2017). Working for patient safety: a qualitative study of women’s help-seeking during acute perinatal events. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 17(1), 232. DOI:
5. Grönvall, E., & Verdezoto, N. Beyond self-monitoring: understanding non-functional aspects of home-based healthcare technology. In Proceedings of the 2013 ACM international joint conference on Pervasive and ubiquitous computing (pp. 587-596). ACM. DOI:
6. Mackintosh, N., Sandall, J., Collison, C., Carter, W., & Harris, J. (2018). Employing the arts for knowledge production and translation: Visualizing new possibilities for women speaking up about safety concerns in maternity. Health Expectations, 21(3), 647-658. DOI:
7. Peyton, T., Poole, E., Reddy, M., Kraschnewski, J., & Chuang, C. (2014). Every pregnancy is different: designing mHealth for the pregnancy ecology. In Proceedings of the 2014 conference on Designing interactive systems (pp.577-586). ACM. DOI:
8. Smith, W., Wadley, G., Daly, O., Webb, M., Hughson, J., Hajek, J., ... & Story, D. (2017). Designing an app for pregnancy care for a culturally and linguistically diverse community. In Proceedings of the 29th Australian Conference on Computer-Human Interaction (pp. 337-346). ACM. DOI:

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