January 12th, 2011
Now we’re into January I wanted to share some plans and developments for this blog. I’ve been blogging for six and a bit years, as a hobby in my spare time. It’s a space where I’ve been able to reflect on issues that bug me (like experiences in dealing with the media), highlight resources in sexual and reproductive health, or address more serious subjects (e.g. the medicalisation of sexual functioning). I’ve very much enjoyed doing this, particularly the freedom to talk about different issues as they’ve arisen, and tackling topics people have asked me to address.
However, I’ve recently felt a sense of disconnectedness between the blog and my working life. At work I lecture postgraduate students in International Primary Health Care – focusing on critically appraising evidence, putting that into practice, and reflecting on working effectively with communities and colleagues. Alongside this I supervise and carry out research on sex and relationships health, and apply this work by teaching continuing medical/professional education students core issues around understanding psychosexual and relationships topics and communicating with confidence with patients on sexual health issues.
That work has always informed what I write on the blog, and how I get to write it, but most of my writing hasn’t really been about my teaching or research.
I think the time has come to change that.
In recent years my research has moved from focusing on assessing psychosexual problems, through to evaluating how sexual and reproductive healthcare services are modernising (e.g. here, here and here). I’ve continued to be interested in how the media talks about sex and relationships (particularly around advice giving and public health messaging) (see here, here and here).
That work has led me to focus more on issues relating to sex and relationships when people are trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and when they have children. This interest has been sparked by feedback from participants and professionals during research; observations on what is available to parents to be and parents regarding advice on intimacy; and assessing how these topics are dealt with via the media and self help market. Completing systematic reviews on the academic literature has also informed my growing understanding of this area. Including topics such as psychosexual functioning following birth; relationship quality during pregnancy and parenthood; the impact on relationships following miscarriage, stillbirth or cot death; or how breast/bottle feeding impacts upon intimacy.
I’ve been amazed how in some areas there is a lot of really useful, critical and applied research on sex/relationships and pregnancy/parenting, but relatively little adoption of said evidence into practice in healthcare, education, therapy or media. For example there’s some fantastic writing unpacking some of the myths and stereotypes about breastfeeding and sex, and yet this seems to be largely ignored by midwives, health visitors and journalists.
There are also cases where there is nowhere near enough research completed, mirrored by relatively little discussion of the topic in healthcare or general advice for women and their partners. For example intimacy after miscarriage; or discussions on sex and relationships issues for people with disabilities, who are LGBT, single parents, or teen parents.
I’ll be focusing on these areas for the foreseeable future. Which brings me back to the blog – and where you can help.
I’ll be writing here about issues arising from my research, reading and teaching. For example covering topics like addressing relationships issues following miscarriage or stillbirth, intimacy and IVF, and breast/bottle feeding and the impact on libido. I’ll be focusing on reviewing evidence around core areas of sex/relationships and parenthood, and tackling problems identified in reproductive/maternal health care on these issues. Since many groups of people are excluded from research and writing around parenthood and intimate relationships, I’ll be seeking advice and input from people about their experiences of relationships and trying to conceive; pregnancy, surrogacy or adoption; or in parenthood.
Alongside this I’ve taken on board feedback I’ve had via email and from people I’ve met at public events discussing sex and science. In particular I’ve been asked to provide more practical guides around finding research papers, tools to aid critical appraisal of research, and information on how to apply sex research to our lives. Other requests include sharing ideas about how we can bring sex research to the public in innovative ways and will be reflecting on some opportunities for doing this over the coming months.
I’ve also been asked to clarify often used terms like ‘evidence based’, ‘sex positive’, or ‘behaviour change’. These phrases are often discussed in unproblematic ways – as if we all know and agree upon what they mean. I’ll be unpacking some of those core topics and thinking more widely about what they can mean (positively and negatively) within research and practice. If there are any poor or misleading media stories on sex and relationships I’ll do my best to debunk them.
I’ll continue to share information about interesting research papers, forthcoming conferences and events, and topical issues relating to sexual and reproductive health via twitter (@drpetra). I’ll also be sharing links to writing and projects by other inspiring and interesting people tackling diverse topics around sex, relationships, gender, sexuality and politics (sometimes all at once).
Your feedback via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) is always welcome. As I embark on this new role for the blog do keep me posted about what you like about it, where it needs to be improved and anything you think I need to be tackling. As much as time and work allows I’ll do my best to accommodate.
Wishing you all the best for the coming year and looking forward to sharing the next stage of my blogging journey with you. I hope you’ll find it useful and interesting.Tweet