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School of Geography

Jo Dagustun

Jo Dagstun

Her knowledge counts too: the place of women’s experiential knowledge in childbirth experiences and outcomes

Supervisors: Dr Nichola WoodProfessor Deborah Phillips (University of Oxford)
Funding: Economic and Social Research Council 1+3 studentship

After a short career break a few years ago, I chose return to study rather than work, and I haven’t regretted my decision once. I’m studying for my PhD part-time over five years, which I love, and I’m based mainly at home – this gives me a lot of flexibility and space for reflection, which is important for me as a mature student with young children (although it does mean I have to be very disciplined with myself at times!). I chose to do both my MA and PhD at Leeds because I was very impressed by the friendly and experienced team that interviewed me. I felt straightaway that I would be well supported here as a mature student, and that has certainly turned out to be the case. When I opted for Leeds, I had no idea about the School’s excellent reputation amongst UK geography departments (hence its access to ESRC funding for PhD students like me), so that’s just been a bonus.

My PhD research explores contemporary UK childbirth culture. I am particularly interested in how lay people seek to play a part in improving childbirth experiences and outcomes (distinct from the role played by policy-makers and practitioners). For my Master's thesis, I looked at why women choose to give birth in different types of places, whether in hospital, at home or in a birth centre. I found that a woman’s level of confidence in her body’s ability to birth might be an important influencing factor in deciding on a place to give birth. This led to me considering the influence of our broader culture on how childbirth is performed, and I am now developing this research by examining how women’s lived experiences of childbirth fit with ideas around ‘normal birth’. I want to describe and explain the kinds of views that women hold on the ‘normal birth agenda’, with reference to their own lived experiences and in the context of our dominant culture.