Professor Mary Nolan


Professor of Perinatal Education


Contact Details

tel: 01905 542094

Before coming to the University, Mary Nolan worked for many years in the voluntary sector, supporting and educating mothers, fathers and families across the transition to parenthood. She is a passionate advocate for the Early Intervention agenda and its focus on the Very Early Years in order to ensure that every baby gets the best possible start in life. She thinks that this is best achieved by supporting those involved in caring for the baby - especially his or her parents – and also health and social care professionals who work with young families. Mary retains a keen interest in the voluntary sector and respects its commitment to ensuring that the voice of people accessing public services is always heard. She enjoys writing and helping others to get their work published. The Journal which she launched in 2013, the International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, aims to help practitioners who have not published before to share their best practice ideas with others. Mary is based in the IHS but also works frequently with the Centre for Early Childhood in the School of Education and values this cross-institution collaboration.

Ph.D; M.A.; B.A (Hons.); RGN


Marys research has included women's and men's experiences of early labour; availability, content and quality of antenatal education; effectiveness of antenatal education in reducing use of pharmacological pain relief in labour; role of antenatal education in supporting positive mental health across the transition to parenthood; women's experiences of home birth and of freebirth, and young peoples knowledge of babies physical, psychological and social development and of sensitive parenting.

She has evaluated a major new programme of transition to parenthood education which she herself devised.

Mary has also collaborated on many trials with colleagues from other Universities, including the BUMPES study (Birth in Upright Maternal Position with Epidural in situ in Second stage of labour); prevention of postpartum haemorrhage; impact of breastfeeding peer support for women from disadvantaged areas, and the use of birth plans in labour.

She is currently engaged in a series of studies exploring the impact on pre-school children of being part of a military family. She is a co-applicant for a study into outcomes for babies of being born into a birthing pool, and is collaborating on new guidelines for best midwifery practice in labour.

Professional Experience

Mary worked as an antenatal teacher, and then as a trainer, for the National Childbirth Trust (now the NCT) for 25 years. As an antenatal teacher, she ran groups for mothers and fathers-to-be in rural areas and in major cities across England. She worked for many years at Birmingham Women's Hospital, running antenatal sessions for a diverse group of parents.

As an antenatal tutor, she was responsible for curriculum development and for introducing the Birth and Beyond programme, approved by the Department of Health, to the NCT. She trained antenatal teachers at home and abroad, and regularly worked with teachers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Since joining the University, Mary has continued to devise and implement parent education programmes that are sensitive to local demographies and needs. She worked extensively on a programme for Kirklees Council in mid-Yorkshire, and was responsible for its evaluation and supporting its ongoing development. She has also recently worked on a transition to parenthood programme for Worcestershire.

Mary has a passion for ensuring that busy practitioners are supported to keep abreast with the latest research and new understandings in the field of the critical 1000 days from conception to the second year of life. With this in view, she founded and edits the International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, which is now in its 5th volume. The Journal has attracted articles from leading thinkers in the very early years and parent education, and also spotlights the innovative work of practitioners in supporting and educating new families.


  • Campbell V., Nolan M. (2015) A qualitative study exploring how the aims, language and actions of Yoga for Pregnancy teachers may impact upon women's self-efficacy for labour and birth. Women and Birth, 29(1):3-11.
  • Nolan M. (2015) Perceptions of risk: How they influence women's and health professionals' choices. British Journal of Midwifery, 23(8):394-398.
  • Nolan, M. (2017) Planning, Implementation and Evaluation of a Parent Education Programme in the North of England. Primary Healthcare, 27(4):19-25.
  • Divall, B., Spiby, H., Nolan, M. (2017) Plans, Preferences, or Going with the Flow: An online exploration of women's views and experiences of birth plans. Midwifery, 54:29-34.
  • The Epidural and Position Trial Collaborative Group (2017) Upright versus lying down position in second stage of labour in nulliparous women with low dose epidural: BUMPES randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal, 359:j4471 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j4471 13
  • Nolan, M. (2017) A Survey of English Sixth Formers Knowledge of Early Brain Development. International Quarterly of Community Health Education, 38(1):27-35.

External Responsibilities

Mary is a founder member of the Family Included Global Alliance (FIGA) which is committed to a world-wide campaign to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality by providing support and education to all family members.

She also sits on the Executive Committee of the Association for Infant Mental Health (AIMH UK). AIMHs purpose is to promote education and research into the impact of babies and toddlers earliest relationships on their brain development and later physical, psychological and social outcomes; and to study the mental health of parents, families and key caregivers of young children.

Mary collaborates with The Fatherhood Institute, UK, to promote understanding of the importance of fathers in the lives of their children, and of including fathers in family services. She also sits on the Paternal Perinatal Depression Initiative Consultative Group, chaired by Richard Fletcher of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.