Weekly PhD Newsletter | SIGN UP NOW Weekly PhD Newsletter | SIGN UP NOW

The influence of self-monitoring mood and selfcare activities during pregnancy and early transition to motherhood: a sequential exploratory mixed methods study (RDF23/HLS/NMH/STEEN)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

This project is no longer listed on FindAPhD.com and may not be available.

Click here to search FindAPhD.com for PhD studentship opportunities
  Prof Mary Steen, Prof Geoffrey Dickens  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Introduction and background

Pregnant women and new mothers are susceptible to changes in mental health with anxiety and stress being common during pregnancy and following birth, which can stand alone or be present with other mental health problems (Steen and Steen, 2014). It has been reported that approximately, 16% of women may require some degree of intervention for mental health concerns during the antenatal and postnatal period (NICE, 2014). When undiagnosed and in the absence of appropriate care, postnatal depression can develop and pose serious health consequences to both mother and child (Steen et al, 2015).

Some tools have been previously developed to screen expectant mothers for anxiety and depression during pregnancy and following childbirth. However, there is concern about the appropriateness, timing and effectiveness of screening women, with a limited number of rigorous evaluations (McKellar et al, 2016). It is, therefore, timely to re-think current maternal mental health surveillance and to develop and evaluate novel approaches to monitoring wellbeing.

Self-monitoring mood and selfcare activities (behavioural activities) has been shown to help some individuals by giving them the skills to monitor their mood and plan activities which will improve their mental wellbeing (Martin and Oliver, 2019). However, there is a lack of evidence investigating or exploring whether introducing self-monitoring mood and behavioural activities during pregnancy will help expectant mothers to remain mentally well or seek health professional advice and support if they feel mentally unwell and reduce risk of postnatal mental health problems. Therefore, there is justification to undertake a research project that will explore and investigate expectant mothers’ views on the acceptability and effectiveness for self-monitoring their mood and selfcare activities.

The PhD study:

The study will involve three main Phases.

Phase 1 will involve conducting a scoping review to identify current evidence of any studies published that explored and investigated self-monitoring of mood and selfcare activities during pregnancy and early postnatal period. Findings from the scoping review will help to inform the student to develop an interview schedule for Phase 2.

Phase 2 will involve either individual or focus groups interviews with a sample of pregnant women to explore their views about the acceptability and when and how to introduce self-monitoring of mood and selfcare activities (relating to the five ways to wellbeing). This will help with the development of phase 3.

Phase 3 will involve the feasibility of self-monitoring of mood and selfcare activities with a non-randomised single group of pregnant women at an NHS Trust in the north-east of England. A cohort of women will be asked to complete pre and post questionnaires which will include validated mood and wellbeing scales, measure levels of anxiety and stress and keep a selfcare (behavioural activities) diary during pregnancy and the early postnatal period.

The findings from all phases will be integrated and reported on. The phases of the study will be published in maternity related journals.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Professor Mary Steen. For informal queries, please contact Mary Steen by email [Email Address Removed] or telephone 0191 227 6564. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions.

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Martin F, Oliver T (2019) behavioural activation for children and adolescents: a systematic review of progress and promise. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 28:427–441
McKellar L, et al (2017) Capture my mood: a feasibility study to develop a visual scale to self-monitor mental wellbeing following birth. Evidence Based Midwifery 15(2):54-59
NICE (2014) Antenatal, postnatal mental health: clinical management (clinical -guideline CG192).
Steen M, (2015) Pre-post-survey findings from the Mind ‘Building resilience programme for better mental health: pregnant women and new mothers. Evidence Based Midwifery 13(3):92-9.
Steen M, Steen S. (2014) Striving for better maternal mental health. Practising Midwife 17(3):11-4.
PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs