The main research question of this thesis can be formulated as follows:
What are the communicative trajectories of foetal wellbeing assessments using expert ultrasound technology during routine antenatal encounters between sonographers and pregnant women?
This can be subdivided further as follows:
1. What are the features of sonographers’ communication during the first stage/booking encounter (first trimester) and the normality scan encounter (second trimester) in terms of structural, interactional and thematic organisation (see Chapter 4)?
2. What communicative strategies do sonographers draw upon to offer reassurance to pregnant women during the first stage/booking encounter (see Chapter 5)?
3. How are reassurances of normal foetal features communicated by sonographers to pregnant women during the 20-week gestation stage (see Chapter 6)?
4. How do sonographers provide explanations about risk and uncertainty and respond to questions raised by pregnant women during the ultrasound scan encounters (see Chapter 7)?1.4 Overview of chapters
The rest of this chapter provides an outline (context and scene setting) of the research area that is followed by a background of the U.K. maternity care provision. The literature looks at the experiences of pregnant women, the advancements in ultrasound technology and the professional role of sonographers.
Chapter 2 will draw on the sociological notions of normality, risk, uncertainty and reassurance within biomedicine. I argue that a societal emphasis on foetal development and a healthy baby have embraced the medicalisation of pregnancy using technological advancements. These prenatal screening processes have opened differing opinions relating to ‘quality control’, authoritative knowledge and interpretation of highly visual information. These have created moral and ethical dilemmas within the obstetric context about the personal and social responsibility, as they seek information about what counts as normal. The communicative project occurs through a process of scientific assessments, medical expertise and the activity of interpretation. These are interlinked as communication of scan findings makes it incumbent on the sonographer to provide reassurance of foetal normality but also to explain findings that are comparable to risk and uncertainty.
Chapter 3 comprises two sections: Section 1 outlines the qualitative methodology, the stages of the recruitment process, data collection, participant consent procedures and ethical considerations. Section 2 details the novel choice of activity analysis as the most appropriate analytical framework for this research, but recognises the contribution of conversation analysis as a combined approach toward understanding the structure and function of the interaction. Following Levinson (1979), the audio-recorded data of the booking and normality scan encounters are treated as activity types. This section provides details about how the recorded...