PhD Opportunity - Making healthy babies – an exploration of barriers and facilitators to optimising pre-conception health
About the Project
Preconception health can influence outcomes in pregnancy as well the future wellbeing of the child. Several national and international policies have highlighted the need to improve preconception health at the individual level. Unhealthy exposures at the time of conception and in early pregnancy can significantly impact the immediate and later health of babies developing in the womb. Maternal smoking is associated with up to 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 perinatal deaths per year. Smoking is known to significantly affect male fertility. Alcohol is detrimental at all stages of pregnancy and can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. Obesity increases the risk of miscarriage, blood clots, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, large babies, operative births (including caesarean section) and postpartum haemorrhage. Iron deficiency has also been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes. Excessive caffeine intake is associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes.
Just under half (45%) of pregnancies in the UK are unplanned, leaving no opportunity for pre-pregnancy planning and lifestyle modifications. It is important to explore reasons for this, particularly given there is free access to contraception in the UK. We need to understand why couples do not plan for pregnancy and how health behaviours are interpreted in the preconception period. We wish to explore the acceptability of an app-based fertility tool or other means of promoting healthier behaviour pre-conception, which can help women and men actively plan for a pregnancy and most importantly plan for healthier babies and the future of our population.
The proposed research in this PhD will answer the following research questions:
- How does preconception health affect future wellbeing in mothers and children?
- Do couples prioritise preconception health?
- What factors influence men and women’s access to preconception health advice?
- What interventions can help to optimise preconception health for men and women and improve fertility, pregnancy and childhood outcomes?
The student will acquire skills in systematic reviewing, development of questionnaires, interviewing, focus group facilitation, statistical and thematic analysis of quantitative and qualitative data and writing for publication.
A review of the scientific literature will be conducted by the student to establish and summarise how preconception health status impacts parental lifelong health as well as children’s health. The student will use a variety of methods to explore the views of men and women at different stages of their reproductive lives to gain an understanding of their perception of preconception health. The student will explore factors which might encourage (facilitators) or discourage (barriers) engagement from preconception health improvement including potential interventions such as a fertility or pregnancy planning app using variety of methods such as surveys and/or focus groups.
The findings of this research will be of interest to the public, clinicians, researchers and policymakers. By undertaking an evaluation of how men and women understand the importance of preconception health now, effective healthcare interventions and public health campaigns can be designed, tested and implemented in future. Ultimately, this work will contribute to understanding how we improve the health of parents to lead to healthy babies.
Background of Student
- Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First-Class Honours degree (or international equivalent) in a Health-related including Public Health, biomedical or health data science subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree (or international equivalent) may be considered provided they have achieved a master's degree with distinction or commendation.
- Quantitative and qualitative skills (or documented potential to learn skills)
- An active interest in women’s health, fertility and/or public health
- A Master's degree in a related field
- Experience analysing data using basic statistics in a statistical software package
- Qualitative research / Epidemiology experience
We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.
Informal enquiries are encouraged. Please contact Dr Andrea Woolner (email@example.com) for further information.
Closing date: Wednesday 14th December 2022
See the link below for more information on how to apply.