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 Address Removed]) for further information.
International applicants are eligible to apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £14,000 per annum).
- Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
- You should apply for Applied Health Science (PhD) to ensure your application is passed to the correct team for processing.
- Please clearly note the name of the supervisor and exact project title on the application form. If you do not mention the project title and the supervisor on your application, it will not be considered for the studentship.
- Your application must include: A personal statement, an up-to-date copy of your academic CV, and clear copies of your educational certificates and transcripts.
- 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.
- Please note: you DO NOT need to provide a research proposal with this application
- If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed]