Dr Wendy Norton

Job: VC 2020 Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care (Sexual Health)

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Nursing and Midwifery

Research group(s): Centre for Reproduction and NMRC

Address: De Montfort, University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH.

T: +44 (0)116 201 3810

E: wnorton@dmu.ac.uk

W: www.dmu.ac.uk/hls


Personal profile

Wendy Norton is a VC2020 Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at De Montfort University where she specialises in sexual and reproductive health and women’s health care.  She worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Assisted Reproduction for 14 years before moving into academia. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, sexual health and HIV, reproduction and experiences of ART use amongst members of LGBT communities.

Publications and outputs 

  • Procreative Boundaries: Gay men navigating surrogacy
    Procreative Boundaries: Gay men navigating surrogacy Norton, Wendy Gay men are increasingly using surrogacy to create biologically related families, yet little is known about how the socio-cultural context shapes UK resident gay men’s experiences. These data are drawn from a wider exploratory, qualitative study based on an interpretivist epistemology. The study explored the factors that influence UK resident gay men’s desire and motivation for parenthood, why men choose surrogacy over other family building options and their experiences as they navigate the surrogacy journey. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 21 gay men who had undergone surrogacy arrangements in the UK, USA and India and 15 key stakeholders (surrogacy organisations, legal and regulatory agencies, and healthcare professionals). Data were analysed using thematic analysis informed by concepts of procreative consciousness, procreative responsibility and procreative boundaries to analyse gay men’s meanings and experiences as they pursue surrogacy. Gay men face unique challenges in family formation, many of which are largely absent for other intended parents accessing reproductive technologies. They need to navigate, a range of boundaries: social, relational, institutional, and legal, which constitute a series of potential barriers to achieving parenthood. A focus on procreative boundaries highlights the importance of the socio-cultural, confines within which procreative consciousness and responsibility are enabled, shaped and enacted. The presentation analyses these boundaries and discusses the ways in which dominant discourses of family and kinship accentuate existing inequalities and reproduce practices based on heterosexism and gender bias within the realm of surrogacy. Conference abstract
  • Fertility
    Fertility Norton, Wendy
  • Heterosexual partnered men’s experiences of becoming fathers through surrogacy
    Heterosexual partnered men’s experiences of becoming fathers through surrogacy Norton, Wendy; Weis, Christina Increasing numbers of people are undertaking surrogacy as a means of creating a family. In heterosexual couples, surrogacy centres on a third-party female who facilitates the couple’s pregnancy, but is not the expectant father’s intimate partner. This may potentially add a level of complexity and tension to this pregnancy experience. Whilst recent healthcare policies highlight the importance of involving fathers throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and the transition to parenthood, it has been suggested that men are often side-lined in the organisation of surrogacy arrangements and participating in the pregnancy experience by the women involved; the intending mothers, and surrogates (Teman 2010:185). The limited research that exists on men’s experiences of surrogacy arrangements focuses mainly on single or gay men/couples (Norton, 2018; Smietana 2017, Riggs et al 2015). There is a dearth of literature on heterosexual partnered men’s experiences of fatherhood through surrogacy. This exploratory, qualitative study, based on an interpretivist epistemology, explores how heterosexual partnered men, who are fathers or are becoming fathers via surrogacy, experience their transition to fatherhood , their involvement in the pregnancy, how expectant fathers perceive and navigate the relationship with their surrogate, and the impact of this relationship on the father’s relationship with his intimate partner. This presentation reports the first findings, which suggest surrogacy is a complex and challenging route to fatherhood. To the authors’ knowledge, no other research has yet focused on heterosexual partnered men’s experiences of surrogacy. This research is therefore an important addition to the limited empirical knowledge base. Oral presentation at the British Sociological Association Human Reproduction Study Group Annual Conference. De Montfort University, Leicester, 12th June 2019.
  • The Work of the Royal College of Nursing Women’s Health Steering Group
    The Work of the Royal College of Nursing Women’s Health Steering Group Holloway, Debby; Norton, Wendy As part of the professional arm of the Royal College of Nursing, the steering group is made up of nurses who undertake roles on a voluntary basis for terms of four years. The steering group links with other nursing forums on major pieces of college work such as the decriminalisation of abortion statement, whilst also maintaining its own work steam, FGM and modern slavery. This poster presents a snapshot of the work over the last two to three years. • Publications: the CNS in endometriosis, early pregnancy care, and nurse specialist in menopause are all aimed at providing guidance for nurses within these roles. These have all been written in conjunction with charities, patient groups and professional bodies and can also include information for women, such as the endometriosis publication. To increase awareness of women’s health and nursing practice amongst nurses who are not familiar with this subject area we have produced three series of pocket guides providing a basic reference for nurses • Annual conference • Representing nursing at All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on women’s health • Representing nurses at the RCN congress and undertaking educational fringe events such as menopause at work, to highlight its impact on the nursing workforce • To highlight the role of nurses within women’s health care, and women’s health in general, we currently have an exhibition entitled ‘The Wandering Womb’, and parallel series of lectures in partnership with the RCN library. • We have an active closed Facebook page and twitter account • Internationally, two members of the steering group have represented the women's health forum as guest speakers at the International Women's Health Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, March 2018. • Some of the forum work has led to publications such as ‘Menopause at Work’, and the endometriosis CNS survey. From this, we are working with the BSGE to look at bespoke leadership courses for CNS in endometriosis. The background of the group is varied and changes; currently it is: • Debby Holloway - Nurse Consultant gynaecology • Dr Wendy Norton - Senior Lecturer in women’s and sexual health • Mandy Myers - Director of Nursing, BPAS • Katharine Gale - Nurse Consultant • Ruth Bailey - sexual health • Nikki Noble - specialist nurse The group is very active and has more work streams for coming years, responding to member questions and areas that arise from practice, and the development of the nurse’s role within women’s health.
  • Gay Men’s Experiences of UK Maternity Care
    Gay Men’s Experiences of UK Maternity Care Norton, Wendy Objective: The number of same-sex parents in the UK has increased steadily over the years. Gay men are increasing seeking surrogacy to become parents and subsequently engaging with maternity services. Whilst there is a small body of literature on the care lesbian women receive within the maternity sector, to date, no studies have explicitly explored the experience of gay men within UK maternity services following successful surrogacy. Design: These data are drawn from a wider exploratory, qualitative study based on an interpretivist epistemology. The study explored the factors that influence UK resident gay men’s desire and motivation for parenthood, why men choose surrogacy over other family building options and their experiences as they navigate the surrogacy journey. Data were collected using semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with 21 gay men and 15 key stakeholders, for example surrogacy organisations, legal and regulatory agencies, and healthcare professionals. Method: The presentation centres on data from interviews with a purposive, self-selecting sample of 12 gay men who had become fathers via surrogacy, and whose surrogate delivered their baby within the UK maternity sector. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. Results: This paper reports three key themes: (i) heteronormative barriers in maternity care, (ii) healthcare professionals’ unfamiliarity and inexperience with surrogacy arrangements and (iii) healthcare professionals’ lack of understanding of UK surrogacy law. Data suggest that institutionalised practices endorsing heteronormative and gendered norms still exist within UK maternity care, with little recognition of the needs of gay men as intended parents. Maternity staff lacked understanding and knowledge of surrogacy arrangements which often resulted in poor care. Participants reported that in order to challenge negative institutionalised practices and be viewed as legitimate parents, they had to educate healthcare professionals about the practicalities and legalities of surrogacy arrangements. Conclusions: The majority of participants reported negative experiences within maternity services. Despite significant changes in UK equality legislation, removing some of the structural boundaries to parenting for gay men, inequitable and discriminatory care is still occurring within the UK maternity sector. It is recommended that maternity staffs receive additional education on UK surrogacy law and reflect on current practices to ensure they are inclusive of all prospective parents. A contemporary surrogacy policy and protocol needs to be in place in all UK maternity units to ensure inclusive and responsive maternity care is provided for all those involved in surrogacy arrangements.
  • An exploration of how women in the UK perceive the provision of care received in an early pregnancy assessment unit: an interpretive phenomenological analysis
    An exploration of how women in the UK perceive the provision of care received in an early pregnancy assessment unit: an interpretive phenomenological analysis Furber, L.; Norton, Wendy Objective The objective of the study was to explore how women experience care within an early pregnancy assessment unit (EPAU) and how they are helped to understand, reconcile and make sense of their loss and make informed decisions about how their care will be managed following a first trimester miscarriage. Design This was a single centre, prospective qualitative study. An interpretive phenomenological analysis approach was used to interpret the participants’ meanings of their experiences. It is an ideographic approach that focuses in depth on a small set of cases to explore how individuals make sense of a similar experience. Setting An EPAU in a large teaching hospital in the Midlands that provides care to women in their early pregnancy, including those experiencing pregnancy loss. Participants A purposive sample of 10 women were recruited to this study. All of the women were either miscarrying at the time of this study or had miscarried within the previous few weeks. Results Six superordinate themes in relation to women’s experiences of miscarriage were identified: (1) the waiting game, (2) searching for information, (3) management of miscarriage: no real choice, (4) the EPAU environment, (5) communication: some room for improvement and (6) moving on. Conclusions This study found that improvements are required to ensure women and their partners receive a streamlined, informative, supportive and continuous package of care from the point they first see their general practitioner or midwife for support to being discharged from the EPAU. The provision of individualised care, respect for women’s opinions and appropriate clinical information is imperative to those experiencing miscarriage to help them gain a degree of agency within an unfamiliar situation and one in which they feel is out of their control.
  • Nurses’ experiences of undertaking fertility-related discussions with Teenagers and Young Adults with cancer: an interpretive phenomenological analysis
    Nurses’ experiences of undertaking fertility-related discussions with Teenagers and Young Adults with cancer: an interpretive phenomenological analysis Norton, Wendy; Wright, E.; Geary, Martyn Aims: To explore and interpret nurses’ experiences, feelings and associated meanings attached to undertaking fertility-related discussions with teenagers and young adults with cancer. To advance an understanding of factors which facilitate or hinder such discussions, in order to progress clinical practice. Background: Improved cancer treatments have increased survival rates for many teenagers and young adults. However, as a side-effect of treatment, infertility may result. International and UK studies suggest this patient population may not be provided with adequate opportunities to discuss this important issue. Little is known about nurses’ experiences of undertaking fertility-related discussions. Design: Qualitative Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Methods: Eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted between February-May 2016 with purposively selected nurses working in a Teenage Cancer Trust Unit within a UK hospital. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Findings: Nurses experienced a perceived lack of knowledge resulting in avoidance of raising fertility issues. Nurses expressed a specific need for more knowledge and education which was viewed as an essential pre-requisite to their participation in discussions. The limited time frame for female patients to preserve fertility prior to commencement of treatment was felt to inhibit both fertility-related discussion and fertility preservation. Conclusion: On-going education and support for nurses may ensure teenage and young adult cancer patients’ reproductive needs are met. Nurses need to consider ways to ensure female patients benefit from improved information regarding infertility risks and preservation options to support their reproductive needs. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.
  • Gay Men and Surrogacy: Navigating Boundaries in the Procreative Realm
    Gay Men and Surrogacy: Navigating Boundaries in the Procreative Realm Norton, Wendy Desire and motivation to parent has often been conceptualised as a women’s reproductive concern whilst relatively little is known about men’s reproductive desires, reproductive decision making and reproductive experiences. Gay men have specifically been represented as uninterested in children and parenting, yet an increasingly number of same-sex male couples are exploring the possibility of surrogacy as a means of creating a family. To date, no studies have explicitly explored men’s use of surrogacy within the UK context where gamete donation is highly regulated and commercial surrogacy is illegal. This study employed a qualitative, intrepretivist epistemology to explore the factors that influence UK resident men’s desire and motivation for parenthood, why men choose surrogacy over other family building options and their experiences as they navigate the surrogacy journey. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 21 gay men and 15 key stakeholders and analysed using thematic analysis informed by theoretical concepts of procreative consciousness and procreative responsibility (Marsiglio, 1991), micro-aggressions (Sue, 2010), and Critical Kinship Studies (Krolokke et al, 2016; Riggs & Peel, 2016). The findings reveal that a variety of interrelated factors, including learning of different parenting options, spending time with children, and the visibility of “role-models” enabled men’s procreative consciousness to emerge, and served as triggers to motivate them to act on this desire. Participants’ accounts depicted surrogacy as a complex and challenging route to parenthood, but one which offered men the possibility of a genetically-related child who could live with them permanently in their own family unit. Surrogacy required careful planning, decision-making, and a great deal of forethought as men considered and negotiated third-party input to help them create their families. Many of the challenges men faced in their pursuit of surrogacy were associated with healthcare professionals’ lack of familiarity and experience with surrogacy and its legal position within the UK. Central to the findings in this study is the importance of the socio-cultural context. This thesis argues that gay men’s motivation to parent and their experiences of surrogacy are shaped by the changing landscape of social, legal and technological possibilities within a society that privileges heterosexual parenting. This study presents the original concept of procreative boundaries to examine the broader multi-layered structural parameters within which gay men are able to realise their procreative consciousness and enact procreative responsibility in order to achieve parenthood and be recognised as legitimate parents.
  • Navigating UK Surrogacy Law: Gay Men’s Journeys to Parenthood
    Navigating UK Surrogacy Law: Gay Men’s Journeys to Parenthood Norton, Wendy Technological advances have revolutionised the field of reproduction, giving rise to growing numbers of people worldwide utilising surrogacy arrangements as a method of family building. UK surrogacy law remains embedded in 1980s legislation. Whilst recent changes to UK parenthood law have removed some of the structural barriers to parenting via surrogacy, current laws do not adequately reflect the rapidly changing realities of surrogacy within the 21st century. It has been suggested that this may be fuelling an increase in travel to countries with well-established commercial surrogacy programmes, enforceable surrogacy agreements and less restrictive legal requirements. Drawing on interviews from my PhD study of gay men’s use of surrogacy to achieve parenthood, this seminar will present participants’ accounts of the tensions created by the present UK surrogacy law and the way it impacted upon their procreative decision-making. The recommended changes to UK legalities that they suggested to ease this pathway to parenthood for future commissioning parents will also be discussed. These findings contribute to the on-going campaign to reappraise UK surrogacy law to ensure surrogacy practice is fit for purpose in meeting the needs of modern families.
  • Nurse-led Intrauterine insemination Programmes
    Nurse-led Intrauterine insemination Programmes Norton, Wendy This conference session will cover aspects of advanced and specialist practice from the UK perspective, building on the work of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Women’s Health Forum. The presentation will discuss the role fertility nurse specialists play in supporting and guiding couples accessing assisted reproduction, the key issues involved in a nurse-led intrauterine insemination programme, and the training and competencies needed to undertake this role.

Click here to view a full listing of Wendy Norton's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

  • Women’s Health Care
  • Gynaecology
  • Sexuality
  • Infertility and Assisted Reproduction
  • Contraception
  • Sexual Health and HIV

Areas of teaching

  • Sexual Health
  • Contraception
  • Assisted Conception
  • Gynaecology
  • Women’s Health
  • Complementary Therapies

Membership of external committees

Membership of professional associations and societies

Committee memebr on the Women’s Health Forum Steering Committee (RCN)

Conference attendance

Norton, W, “An exploratory study of gay men seeking surrogacy to achieve parenthood – work in progress”. Reproduction Research Group Seminar Series. De Montfort University, Leicester, 3rd June 2015

Hudson, N. Culley, L. Norton, W, “Bio-Sociality and the Negotiation of Diagnosis in Cross-Border Infertility Treatment" at the XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology in Japan on July 13-19, 2014.

Culley, L; Hudson, N; Norton, W; Law C. Religion, Infertility and Infertility Treatment.  Second Annual Conference on Medicine and Religion in Chicago on May 28-30, 2013.

Hudson N, Culley L, Norton W ‘Online communities of hope. Bio-sociality and the negotiation of overseas fertility treatment’, paper presented to the British Sociological Association Human Reproduction Study Group Annual Conference. Milton Keynes,15 June 2011

Woodward B J, Norton W J, Almeida P & Gilling-Smith C (2011) Inconsistencies in the treatment of patients with blood-borne viruses: an audit of British IVF clinics, oral presentation at the 27th Annual Meeting of ESHRE, Stockholm, Sweden, 3July – 6 July 2011

Woodward B. Gilling-Smith C. Almeida P, Norton W. Blood-borne Viruses: An audit of treating viral positive patients and perceived risks in UK fertility clinics. Oral presentation at Fertility 2011 Conference, Dublin, 4-6 January 2011

Woodward B. Gilling-Smith C, Almeida P, Norton W. Inconsistency in Processing Gametes from Viral Positive Patients in the UK. Poster to be presented at the British Andrology Society Annual Meeting, Macclesfield, 9-10 November 2010

Culley L. Hudson N. Blyth E. Norton W. Rapport F, Pacey A. Cross border reproductive care: The Research Evidence. Poster to be presented at the 13th Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility (COGI), Berlin, November 2010.

Culley L. Hudson N. Blyth E. Norton W. Pacey A. Rapport F. ‘Travelling abroad for fertility treatment: an exploratory study of UK residents seeking cross-border care’ oral presentation at the 26th Annual Meeting of ESHRE, Rome, Italy, 27 June – 30 June, 2010

Culley, Hudson, Pacey, Rapport, Blyth, Norton ‘Fertility Tourism? Discourses of Cross-border Reproductive Care’, at the 10th Annual Interdisciplinary Research Conference "Transforming Healthcare through Research & Education" 4- 6 November 2009, Trinity College, University of Dublin.

Norton ‘Ethical Issues in Reproductive Health & Infertility’, paper delivered at the International Nursing Conference on Reproductive Health & Infertility, 23 – 26 September 2009, Las Vegas, Nevada, US.

Norton, Feehan ‘”Double Dutch”: making sex safer with education and practice’, poster presentation at the Royal College of Nursing Sexual Health Conference, June 2006, London.

Externally funded research grants information

The Sociology of Technologically Mediated Reproduction - Postgraduate Conference. The British Sociological Association. May 2014. Co-applicant with K Baldwin, C Law and C Weis (PhD students withing the Reproducrion Research Group). £1000.

Transnational Reproduction. An exploratory study of UK residents who travel abroad for fertility treatment (TRANSREP) ESRC, 1 March 2009 – 30 Nov 2010. Co- applicant with Culley, Hudson et al. £99,844.09

Internally funded research project information

ENDOPART 2: developing a knowledge exchange partenrship and improving support in endometriosis. DMU HEIF Fund. October 2015-July 2016.  Co-applicant with L Culley, N Hudson, H Mitchell and C Law.

European network for research on men, in/fertilities and assisted conception. DMU Revolving Investment Fund. October 2011-July 2012. Co-applicant with L Culley & N Hudson.

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