Notice: You are viewing an unstyled version of this page. Are you using a very old browser? If so, please consider upgrading

Meet the team - Sian Harrison

Published on Thursday, 27 January 2022

I am a social scientist in the Policy Research Unit. My main job is to co-ordinate the national maternity surveys. These are large surveys of women who have recently given birth in England. The surveys ask thousands of women about their experiences around pregnancy and childbirth. I'm one of the main authors of the findings in the surveys, and I write a summary report and academic papers that are available to anyone to read.

The last academic paper I published was about post-traumatic stress after giving birth. Since it's becoming harder and harder to recruit participants in postal surveys, I have also written papers on how we can encourage more women to take part in our surveys and try to ensure the information we collect is relevant to all women who have given birth in England.

It's important that we involve the public in our work as much as possible because the Department of Health and Social Care uses information from the surveys to understand where improvements are needed in services for women around pregnancy and childbirth.

Aside from the surveys, I am also interested in research focusing on mental health. I was recently involved in a project looking at how pregnant and postnatal women in India are asked about their own mental health to see how likely it is that any mental health problems are picked up. Another project I was involved in looked at how common anxiety and post-traumatic stress are for parents of babies admitted to neonatal care.

I think there has been a big change in the way that people think and talk about mental health in recent years, not just around pregnancy and childbirth, but much more generally. People from all different backgrounds and with diverse life experiences are becoming far more open about their mental health and the challenges they face. The strains of the pandemic have also brought mental health issues more into everyday conversation and it is encouraging that something, which affects so many people, is becoming less stigmatised.

Before my research career, I trained as a clinical psychologist. After qualifying in 2005, I worked in a hospital providing psychological support and therapy for patients and families affected by cancer. It was a challenging role but very rewarding to be able to help people facing such difficult circumstances.

In 2009, I left clinical practice to take up a research post at the University of Oxford, initially working in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, where I carried out a project exploring the long-term needs of cancer survivors. I subsequently moved to the NPEU in the Nuffield Department of Population Health. Although I sometimes miss working with patients on a one-to-one basis, I am proud that the work we do at the NPEU - and in health sciences research more generally - can help to make a difference to many more people, by influencing government policies and clinical guidelines.

During my career, I have taken two breaks from work to travel. My first trip was a year-long backpacking adventure through North America, Australasia and South East Asia and, for my second trip, I travelled through South and Central America for six months. I hope to have many more adventures in the future! I currently live in the Cotswolds, where I enjoy playing old vinyl, visiting country pubs, spending time with friends and family, and walking in the countryside with my dog, a Beagle called Rupert.

Updated: Monday, 02 October 2023 11:47 (v3)