Building Intrapartum Research Through Health – an interdisciplinary whole system approach to understanding and contextualising physiological labour and birth

BIRTH Cost Action

Optimal maternal and infant health is critical to societal well-being. Reducing childbirth mortality and severe morbidity is a primary concern for most governments. However, this focus on pathology has been associated with an over-extension of clinical interventions to low-risk women, with unexpected adverse clinical consequences, and rising health care costs. Part of the problem has been a scientific focus on understanding pathologies of pregnancy and childbirth from simple, clinical, linear perspectives, with a consequent lack of understanding of the range and limits of normal childbirth physiology in different populations, individuals, and contexts. The proposed Action will advance scientific knowledge in this area from a whole-systems perspective, using the realist research framework of what works, for whom, in what circumstances. It will include five domains:

  1. Biomedicine (epigenetics and the hygiene hypothesis);
  2. Biomechanics (maternal and fetal movement);
  3. Socio-cultural perspectives (social expectations and experiences, including marginalised and migrant populations);
  4. Organizational perspectives (the effect of organizational contexts and cultures on variation in rates of childbirth interventions)
  5. Neuro-psycho-social perspectives (how inter-personal actions and behaviours affect physiological processes).

Starting / Ending Date

January 2014 – September 2018

Project Coordinator

University of Central Lancashire – United Kingdom


Funder: EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020
Grant Number: COST 049/14

Staff from Department of Public Health

Assistant Professor

Research Assistant

Project Partners

Institutions from 32 EU countries were members of this project. Please click here for the full list of partners and their contact:|Name:management-committee

Project Outputs

Datasets available by request at

Peer-reviewed manuscripts