CNR-NOVELLA graduate research seminar, 5/5: Understanding maternal obesity through the concept of bricolage

Graduate Seminars in Narrative

The NOVELLA ESRC Research Node, Institute of Education and

The Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London

Understanding maternal obesity through the concept of bricolage: Convergent and competing meanings of pregnancy and childbirth

Sue Chowdhry, University of Edinburgh

Tuesday May 5th, 5.00-6.30

The Library, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 27-8 Woburn Square, London WC1H OAA

Women with higher Body Mass Indexes (BMI) are considered to be at higher risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and therefore are subjected to increased levels of monitoring and intervention during their pregnancies. Although the numbers of women experiencing difficulties in maintaining a BMI which falls within current recommended obstetric guidelines have risen over the last two decades, there are very few guidelines for maternal health professionals to help them work effectively with this group of women, and a dearth of literature examining the meaning of such work. Equally concerning is that, due to the stigma associated with large body size, particularly for pregnant women, the voices of these women are rarely heard and therefore little is known about the meaning of pregnancy and childbirth for large women in the context of maternal health care. This research aims to deepen our understanding of maternal obesity by examining the meaning that ‘obesity’ and ‘risk’ have for pregnant women and key health professionals. The research data takes the form of semi-structured interviews which were conducted with pregnant women with higher BMIs during and after their pregnancies. Obstetricians, midwives, and anaesthetists also took part in a single interview. Data also includes field notes and a reflective research journal. Having collected the data, the research is in the early stages of analysis. The presentation focuses on the nature of the project data and discusses the suitability of Ricoeur’s memetic process as a means to interpret the meanings arising from the data while engaging with a variety of theoretical approaches to understanding obesity in the context of pregnancy.

Sue Chowdhry is a PhD student in the School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh. Her background in public health nursing and counselling has inspired her current interest in sociologies of the body and narrative research. Whilst working as a full-time further education lecturer she graduated from University of Dundee in 2012 with an MSc in Applied Professional Studies. Her Master’s research critically explored the ways that female further education lecturers use emotion in relation to student achievement. Sue’s current research examines the medicalisation of large women’s pregnancies.


Chowdhry, S. 2014. The Caring Performance and the ‘blooming student’: exploring the emotional labour of further education lecturers in Scotland. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 66(4), pp 554-571.

Chowdhry, S. 2010. Exploring the concept of empathy in nursing: can it lead to abuse of patient trust? Nursing Times, 106(42), pp 22-25.

All welcome, especially graduate students.  For further details contact Corinne Squire ( Details are also on the NOVELLA and CNR websites: .


Published by corinnesquire

Corinne Squire is Professor of Social Sciences and Co-Director, Centre for Narrative Research, at University of East London

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