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Menstrual pain in autistic women and girls

   Faculty of Health

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  Prof G A Hutcheon, Dr D Moore, Dr K Sheen  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Two Full-time PhD (via MPhil) studentships are available at Liverpool John Moores University, via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC NWC). NIHR ARC NWC is one of 15 regional ARCS funded by the NIHR to bring together those needed to support research to improve health and care. Our vision is to address the considerable health inequalities across our region through the collaborative production and implementation of high-quality applied health research in our five themes. Research supported by the ARC NWC must be relevant to the needs of the diverse communities served by the NIHR ARC NWC and its local health and care system, and be generalisable across health and care nationally, as well as within the local health and care system where it is conducted. Our Doctoral Fellows are distributed across the themes and universities and are a crucial part of our Academic Career Development Strategy.

 The supervisory teams have a broad range of expertise, and experience in successful supervision to PhD completion. Two from the 11 projects currently advertised will be funded, reference ARC1-11.

Menstrual pain in autistic women and girls

Many accounts of autism include altered pain experience, which may contribute to undermanagement of pain in autistic people. These observations are of particular concern as recent estimates suggest that 14% of paediatric chronic pain cases involve autistic children; significantly greater than the population prevalence of 1%. These pain patients also generally consist of autistic women and girls who are a historically overlooked group.

The onset of puberty is associated with the development of a range of clinical pain conditions. Considering more acute pains approximately 90% of women experience also significant menstrual pain. Remarkably little is known, however, about the experiences of menstrual pain of autistic women. The paucity of research in autism may be unsurprising given the male predominance in autism research but the few existing studies in this area give cause for concern with more painful and heavy periods reported. In addition to the direct pain associated with menstruation research also suggests marked changes linked to menstruation in autistic girls and women, including cyclical self-injurious behaviours, mood symptoms and emotional dysregulation, and an amplification of sensory issues and repetitive behaviours.

This research will build on co-creation of research with autistic women. Using mixed methods, the research will seek to understand the lived experience of menstrual pain in autistic women and girls. It will also use longitudinal methods to improve our understanding of how pain, mood, autistic presentation and other factors co-occur. Findings will inform recommendations on how to best support autistic women with menstrual pain.

A greater understanding of pain in autism will provide clinicians and caregivers with better understanding of pain experience and expression and help to improve pain management in autism. This PhD will also draw on national and international partnerships to strengthen expertise as well as exposing the student to the global nature of modern science. 

Contact details: For more information please contact Dr. David Moore ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Kayleigh Sheen ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

The full-time studentships are tenable up to 3 years full-time (subject to satisfactory progress) and will cover the cost of tuition fees at Home rates. A stipend in line with the UK Research Council is payable at £15609 per annum, and an additional Research Training Support Grant of up to £1000 per year will be paid for approved research costs.
Due to funding restrictions, the studentships are open to Home applicants only. It is expected the successful applicant (s) will commence on 1st February 2022.


Within their application, potential applicants must:
• Provide their CV
• Provide a cover letter that:
• states the title of the project they are applying for.
• includes a statement explaining why they would want to undertake postgraduate research in this specific area. Please contact the relevant supervisor for further details if required.
• demonstrates consideration of the HIAT toolkit for the proposed research project.
Applicants should have (or expect to have been formally awarded by 31st December 2021) at least a UK Bachelor honours degree at second class (upper division) level (or equivalent qualification) in a relevant discipline
Applicants must have completed and been awarded any current course of study by the proposed start date (before 1st February 2022) otherwise they will not be shortlisted.

Applicants require an English Language level of UKVI IELTS 6.5 (no sub-score less than 6.0) or acceptable UCLan equivalent qualification.
Further information
Completed applications consisting of a CV and cover letter should be returned by email to Prof. Gillian Hutcheon quoting the studentship reference number ARC6.
Fixed Interview Date: 7th December 2021
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