Ethel is working to develop research capacity within midwifery in Oxford Brookes University and this includes maximising opportunities to collaborate with other researchers in the area of pregnancy and childbirth across a range of high, middle and low-income countries.
Areas of research experience and clinical expertise include
- Water immersion during labour and waterbirth. PhD involved a large prospective study in the UK which examined what typically happens to women during childbirth who labour and/or give birth in water in their planned place of birth. This remains the largest study on the topic (N=8,924 women, n=5192 waterbirths) and the first to study maternal and neonatal outcomes outside the hospital setting and by women's planned place of birth for women who laboured in water and women who had a waterbirth. The UK water dataset was part of an international study.
- Intrapartum physiology, care and outcomes; for example, perineal trauma
- Promoting maternal health and wellbeing during pregnancy and the postnatal period - in particular, alcohol consumption, healthy eating, staying active, inspiring women to feel self-confident about their innate capacity to enjoy pregnancy and give birth
Also interested in factors that shape the organisation of maternity care provision including models of care.
- Systematic reviews
- Randomised controlled trials
- Observational and mixed methods research
Research group membership
OxINMAHR - Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research
OxMater - Oxford Brookes University Maternity and Childhood Research Group
The Cochrane Library
Midwife member of the multi-disciplinary Executive group Intrapartum Clinical Study Group within the British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society (BMFMS) https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/about-us/specialist-societies/british-maternal--fetal-medicine-society-bmfms/ This sits within the RCOG. In this forum, contribute to drafting research questions and review research proposal outlines for NIHR project consideration.
Member of the Maternal and Newborn Forum, Royal Society of Medicine https://www.rsm.ac.uk/rsm-sections/maternity-the-newborn-forum/
Member of an Italian initiative, Instituto Ricerca de Interventi Salute (IRIS), http://www.irisassociazione.it/ linked to Milan University and led by an obstetrician, paediatrician and behavioural psychologist. IRIS promotes the adoption of evidence-based midwifery and obstetric practice, runs workshops for maternity caregivers throughout Italy and holds an international annual conference. December 2019 – the theme was “Guidelines and individual care” http://www.irisassociazione.it/eventi/27-xiii-convegno-iris-l-enorme-responsabilita
Research grants and awards
2013- Zumba 4BUMP. With research colleague Dr Lesley Smith, an OBU Entrepreneur and small lottery awards, Ethel established a community initiative involving a weekly dance-based exercise class for pregnant women followed by Club Bump: a question and answer session on topics raised by attending women relating to pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of parenting. Discussions are mediated by a midwife and midwifery students also attend and contribute. Now operating as a Community Investment Company, Zumba 4BUMP has evolved into popular local community service, provides a platform for research ideas and offers midwifery students a unique opportunity to engage with pregnant women and new mums in a community setting https://clubbump.org/
2014: £12,000 awarded by OBU central research funds (CRF) to undertake a feasibility study to explore models for and the acceptability of undertaking a randomised controlled trial on waterbirth.
2018-2019: £8,000 awarded by OBU Knowledge marketing transfer fund (HEIF) to evaluate an e-learning tool to improve midwives' accuracy in visual blood loss estimation at waterbirth.
A feasibility study using mixed methods was undertaken to explore women’s and midwives’ views about the idea of a randomised controlled trial on waterbirth and to elicit if whether there was an RCT model that they would consider sufficiently acceptable to participate in. Heads of Midwifery and Consultant Midwives were asked whether their units might be prepared to be involved in, and have the capacity to host, an RCT on waterbirth. A purposive sample of pregnant women (n=19) and midwives (n=26) attended respective focus groups, and heads of midwifery/consultant midwives were invited to complete an online questionnaire (n=78). Paper in preparation (2020).
An e-tool was developed across two MSc student midwife dissertation projects, to improve the accuracy of visual blood loss estimations during waterbirth and a small sale evaluation demonstrated proof of concept. During 2019, a national evaluation was conducted – write up in 2020.
2019 –Working with Drs Claire Feeley, Harriet Cole and Megan Cooper and Charles Roehr to produce three systematic reviews - protocols on Prospero:
Review and advise maternity facilities in the UK and abroad on guidance for water immersion facilities used during labour and waterbirth.
Invited to facilitate hospital stakeholders when negotiating and introducing a birthing pool facility
2014 Invited by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to respond to a comment about waterbirth in the USA
2017-18: a member of an advisory group led by Professor Helen Spiby for the RCM publication - Guidance for the care of women in labour. https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/2539/professionals-blue-top-guidance.pdf
The Cochrane library http://www.cochranelibrary.com/
- Immersion in water in labour and birth. Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD000111. DOI:
- Parenteral opioids for maternal pain management in labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD007396. DOI: