Enhancing Women’s Access and Experiences of Care during Pregnancy through Digital Health Technologies [Self-Funded Students Only]

   Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

This project is in collaboration with the University of Leicester, the University of Cape Town, and the broader EPSRC/GCRF funded UK-South Africa CoMaCH Network on Co-designing community-based digital health interventions for maternal and child health https://comach.melissadensmore.com/

Dr Nicola Mackintosh, Associate Professor in Social Science Applied to Health


Dr Melissa Densmore, Associate Professor in Computer Science


Project Highlights:

·      Unpack the (technologically mediated and unmediated) practices and everyday experiences of women living in complex social circumstances

·       Examine the suitability of existing theoretical frameworks for technology design of health interventions to propose a conceptual framework for designing socio-technical interventions that account for women’s lived experiences of care during pregnancy

·      Co-design and evaluate socio-technical prototypes with women, family members and/or healthcare professionals by exploring creative scenarios using immersive and/or interactive technologies.

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. 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, affecting their 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 outcomes.

Digital technologies are creating opportunities to support women, relatives and healthcare professionals by facilitating access to information, remote communication, monitoring of health conditions, recreating and sharing life experiences, helping to build self-confidence, and providing peer support. However, there is limited research investigating how pregnant women use digital health technologies and how these can shape clinical encounters, help-seeking practices and decision making especially for women living in complex social circumstances in the Global North and South.


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 better self-care practices. The project is informed by theoretical frameworks for health interventions, different review conducted by the supervisors on pregnant women’s use of technologies, and the CoMaCH network.

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, partners and additional caregiver’s socio-cultural practices (intended and unintended consequences)?

Academic criteria:

A 2:1 Honours undergraduate degree or a master's degree, in computing or a related subject.  Applicants with appropriate professional experience are also considered. Degree-level mathematics (or equivalent) is required for research in some project areas.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate proficiency by obtaining an IELTS score of at least 6.5 overall, with a minimum of 6.0 in each skills component.

This project is open to students worldwide.

How to apply:

Please contact the supervisors of the project prior to submitting your application to discuss and develop an individual research proposal that builds on the information provided in this advert. Once you have developed the proposal with support from the supervisors, please submit your application following the instructions provided below

This project is accepting applications all year round, for self-funded candidates via https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/computer-science-and-informatics 

In order to be considered candidates must submit the following information: 

  • Supporting statement 
  • CV 
  • In the ‘Research Proposal’ section of the application enter the name of the project you are applying to and upload your Individual research proposal, as mentioned above in BOLD
  • Qualification certificates and Transcripts
  • Proof of Funding. For example, a letter of intent from your sponsor or confirmation of self-funded status (In the funding field of your application, insert Self-Funded)
  • References x 2 
  • Proof of English language (if applicable)

For more information about this project, please contact Dr Verdezoto Dias,

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact 

Computer Science (8)

Funding Notes

This project is offered for self-funded students only, or those with their own sponsorship or scholarship award.


[1] Naveen Bagalkot, Nervo Verdezoto, Anushri Ghode, Shipra Purohit, Lakshmi Murthy, Nicola Mackintosh, and Paula Griffiths. 2020. Beyond Health Literacy: Navigating Boundaries and Relationships During High-risk Pregnancies: Challenges and Opportunities for Digital Health in North-West India. In Proceedings of the 11th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Shaping Experiences, Shaping Society (NordiCHI '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 17, 1–15. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3419249.3420126
[2] Nervo Verdezoto, Francisca Carpio-Arias, Valeria Carpio-Arias, Nicola Mackintosh, Parisa Eslambolchilar, Verónica Delgado, Catherine Andrade, and Galo Vásconez. 2020. Indigenous Women Managing Pregnancy Complications in Rural Ecuador: Barriers and Opportunities to Enhance Antenatal Care. In Proceedings of the 11th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Shaping Experiences, Shaping Society (NordiCHI '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 45, 1–9. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3419249.3420141
[3] Mackintosh, N., Verdezoto, N., Gong, Q. “‘DEPAC’: Digital enablement, promise and uncertainty in maternity care.” UoL Tiger Team, Research and Enterprise Division, 2017-18. https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/health-sciences/research/soc- sci/research-projects-1/2018depac2019-digital-enablement-promise-and- uncertainty-in-maternity-care
[4] Mburu, C. W., Wardle, C. J., Joolay, Y., & Densmore, M. (2018). Co-designing with mothers and neonatal unit staff: use of technology to support mothers of preterm infants. In Proceedings of the Second African Conference for Human Computer Interaction: Thriving Communities (pp. 1-10).
[5] 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: https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1242034
[6] 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: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-017-1401-x
[7] 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: https://doi.org/10.1145/2493432.2493495
[8] 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: https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.12660
[9] 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: https://doi.org/10.1145/2598510.2598572
[10] 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: https://doi.org/10.1145/3152771.3152807

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