Participatory research with women in the perinatal period: Considerations for reflexive, community-oriented and power-sensitive research practices

Frances, Tanya and Lucas, Siân E. (2023). Participatory research with women in the perinatal period: Considerations for reflexive, community-oriented and power-sensitive research practices. Qualitative Social Work (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/14733250231214203

Abstract

This article provides an account of using reflexive participatory methods including study advisory group membership to evaluate a perinatal wellbeing service in an economically deprived area of Scotland. There is little qualitative research that explores the experiences of women accessing perinatal mental health services. This article draws on feminist values and narrative theory to explore the practice, process and ethics of using participatory methods with women in the perinatal period. We explore the blurring of intervention and research group boundaries to consider the service and study advisory group as a space which provided the conditions for collective care and re-storying the self. We explore the study advisory group as an extension of the intervention itself, highlighting the role of community in research practices and in interventions, for women who experience perinatal mental health difficulties. We reflect on the ‘sticky’ practice of navigating epistemic and decision-making power in participatory research, including the dual positionalities of being two academic researchers who come to research with therapeutic training in counselling, psychotherapy and social work. We call for reflexive, community-oriented and flexible approaches when using participatory methods with populations that might be considered vulnerable, marginalised or stigmatised.

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