Blog, news, and updates

Born pre-polluted: mothers and environmental risk

In our latest guest blog, Norah MacKendrick and Kate Cairns share findings from their research looking at the individualisation of environmental risks during pregnancy. While their work focuses on the US, there are parallels with how risk and risk mitigation is approached in the UK when it comes to environmental hazards. Recent UK media reports on studies looking at the impact of factors such as air pollution and plastics on pregnancies have included suggestions that pregnant women avoid main roads, time their pregnancies to avoid the most polluted times of year and try to limit their exposure to chemicals found in everyday personal care products like shampoo. 

Mental health vs. pregnancy: coping with simplistic and conflicting medical advice on antidepressants

The WRISK project regularly asks contributors to share their perspectives on a range of issues related to risk communication in pregnancy to further understanding of the challenges faced by scientists, clinicians, policy makers and of course women themselves when trying to navigate risk messaging. These represent individual and personal viewpoints and are aimed at encouraging reflection and discussion, rather than reaching conclusions.

Here, Clare Foster writes about her experiences of coping with conflicting medical advice on antidepressants and pregnancy.

It’s the mother! Is there a strong scientific rationale for studying pregnant mothers so intensively?

Dr Gemma Sharp, University of Bristol, writes the inaugural WRISK guest blog.

“For many years, researchers have been studying how our early life experiences, including those that happen before we are born, can affect our lifelong health. In an article we wrote last year, Debbie Lawlor (University of Bristol), Sarah Richardson (Harvard University) and I show that most of these studies have focused on the characteristics and behaviours of mothers around the time of pregnancy.

We argue this is because people assume that mothers, through their connection to the developing fetus in the womb, are the single most important factor in shaping a child’s health. In our article, we question the truth behind this assumption.”

Communicating health risks: whose responsibility is it?

Alexandra Freeman and David Spiegelhalter have recently published an article on the responsibilities that researchers, journalists, and press officers have to accurately communicate health risks. They claim that “research that is poorly communicated or presented is as potentially damaging as research that is poorly conducted or fraudulent”. This blog looks at the main points raised in the paper, and how they relate to the WRISK project.

WRISK: one week on

It has been just a week since the launch of the WRISK website and social media channels, and we are already overwhelmed by the number and range of people who have got in touch with us. We have received messages from senior research midwives, civil society organisations, public health professionals, and clinicians. Most importantly, we have been contacted by many people who have lived experience of pregnancy and have been on the receiving end of a multitude of messages regarding risk.

Introducing WRISK: drawing on women’s experiences to develop recommendations for public health messaging in pregnancy

The WRISK project is a Wellcome-funded collaboration between the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and Heather Trickey at the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. WRISK engages expert stakeholders and draws directly on women’s experiences to develop recommendations to ensure effective and respectful public health messages for women in pregnancy.

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