Parental Mental Health in Research; Exploring Parent Experiences of Perinatal Research; a Mixed Methods Study

  • Alice Davidson

Student thesis: PsychD


Fetal Ventriculomegaly (VM) is the most common central nervous system abnormality detected during prenatal ultrasound screening. Abnormal findings come as a shock to parents (Kaasen et al., 2017). A recent study shows that developmental delay and traits of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are associated with fetal VM (Kyriakopoulou et al., 2023). Few studies have assessed women who continue their pregnancy after such a finding (Griffiths et al., 2022; Griffiths et al., 2019; Horsch et al., 2017). Consenting to perinatal research allows access to information, expert attention, and a better understanding of the studied issue and its impact (Lalor & Bedgley, 2006). Perinatal research focuses on the child, so little is known about parents' experiences and support needs. Understanding parental experiences could inform how to provide support during research participation, particularly if they have a child who may have atypical development. (Shen et al., 2017). This current study, “Parental Mental Health in Research”, supplements the little existing knowledge about experiences of having a pregnancy and child with VM and provides empirical and qualitative data which aims to inform clinical and research practice and participant involvement and care in research. This project recruited 18 parents involved in a study that monitored fetal VM neurodevelopment (Kyriakopoulou et al., 2023). This study uses a mixed methodology to find if parents who have a child with VM are more anxious than control participants and if they experience more parent-related stress than controls. It also uses thematic data to further add to the picture of their experience. Results demonstrated higher anxiety in mothers of VM pregnancies than mothers of controls. There was also a strong relationship between parental stress and state anxiety for mothers who had VM in pregnancy but not for controls. Mothers of VM pregnancies felt higher negative emotions during the fetal and neonatal stages of the study compared to controls. Most mothers of VM pregnancies would have liked to have been offered support during the study. Qualitative results enhance these findings, as mothers of VM pregnancies describe pregnancy as an isolating experience filled with uncertainty, which shifts to relief after giving birth.
Date of Award12 Mar 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorLeigh Gibson (Director of Studies) & Rebecca Gomm (Co-Supervisor)


  • Perinatal Wellbeing
  • Maternal Mental Health
  • Ventriculomegaly
  • Neuroimaging
  • Foetal Development
  • Researcher

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