Bedfordshire student investigating perinatal mortality rates in Luton collects PhD

A PhD student investigating perinatal mortality* rates among mothers from different ethnic backgrounds in Luton marked the end of years of hard work with her graduation.

Mother-of-two Rebecca Garcia took to the stage in St Mary’s Church at the University of Bedfordshire’s Luton campus to collect her PhD in front of proud husband Mike and daughter Gabriela. Rebecca was joined by her supervisors, Dr Nasreen Ali and Prof Gurch Randhawa.

Rebecca’s thesis, Perinatal mortality in Pakistani, Bangladeshi and White British mothers, in Luton, explored why Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers in Luton experienced higher rates of perinatal mortality compared with White British mothers.

“The little research that has been conducted in this area focuses on South Asian women as a whole. I wanted to look into how Pakistani, Bangladeshi and White British women’s health beliefs impact on their health behaviour in Luton’s maternity services and how this might contribute to perinatal mortality,” said Rebecca, a mother-of-two from Dunstable.

As part of her research, Rebecca worked with women who had experienced a live birth, as well as bereaved mothers who had experienced the loss of a baby. She also spoke to healthcare professionals working in maternity services in Luton.

Rebecca with her husband and daughter

Rebecca discovered that women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds use more verbal pregnancy information from family and friends, than white women. This makes them less likely to receive up-to-date advice and information in relation to their pregnancy.

The study also highlights that there was also an assumption made by many healthcare professionals, which all mothers were able to read the pregnancy related health information that was given to them. A lack of women’s understanding of complications and consequences of pregnancy contributed to delays in getting medical attention when they needed help.

“My ultimate goal is to increase women’s awareness of the adverse risks around pregnancy and contribute to changes in policy and practice to reduce the risk of the tragedy of perinatal mortality happening to any family,” said Rebecca, a registered nurse for 25 years who is now working as an Adult Nursing Lecturer at the University’s Aylesbury campus.

Rebecca’s supervisor Prof Gurch Randhawa said: “The Institute for Health Research is committed to carrying out research informing policy and practice. I take real pride in seeing Rebecca graduate today, not only as one of her PhD supervisory team, but also because of the tangible impact her PhD is already having on the Luton & Dunstable Hospital, who are now developing culturally tailored maternity and childbirth information to its diverse population as a result of her research.”

Rebecca’s PhD was funded by the Steel Charitable Trust, established in 1976 by the late Mr and Mrs Walter Reginald Steel, who had lived in Luton for almost all their lives. As well as the education sector, the Trust provides grants in the following areas: arts and heritage, environment, health and social or economic disadvantage.

*Perinatal mortality refers to stillbirth and early neonatal death

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