Maternal and infant health

The Mother and Infant Research Unit welcomes applications from potential PhD students with a focus on maternal and infant health and care aligned to one or more of our research themes

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We have expertise in a wide range of methodologies including both primary research and evidence synthesis. The following are examples of topics of interest.

Infant feeding: studies that can inform infant and young child feeding policy and practice in a range of contexts including for example:

  • barriers and facilitators to breastfeeding
  • breastfeeding support for women with complex needs including long-term conditions, multiple births, complex social and psychological circumstances
  • development and/or implementation of theoretically-informed interventions to promote, protect and support breastfeeding
  • knowledge, skills and attitudes of health practitioners/lay supporters
  • feeding low birthweight/preterm infants
  • breastfeeding mothers’ experiences of feeding in NICU
  • infant and young child feeding in humanitarian settings
  • promoting skin-to-skin/kangaroo mother care for full term, preterm and sick neonates
  • impact of infant feeding decisions on health outcomes for women and babies
  • breastfeeding technologies
  • knowledge and attitudes of young people towards breastfeeding

For discussion on these topics, contact Dr Anna Gavine

Implementation and evaluation of quality midwifery care: studies that explore, evaluate or aim to improve the quality and organisation of maternity services and care in a range of settings including for example:

  • using theoretical frameworks and models such as the Lancet Series Framework for Quality Maternal and Newborn Care to evaluate maternity/midwifery services and care
  • implementing evidence-based maternity/midwifery care
  • impact of midwifery/midwives on the quality of maternity care
  • experiences of women, men and families of maternity/midwifery and neonatal care
  • continuity of carer in maternity care
  • outcomes and experiences of different models of maternity care including midwifery-led care
  • respectful maternity care
  • preconception care
  • support and wellbeing of maternity staff

For discussion on these topics, contact Dr Andrew Symon or Professor Alison McFadden

Perinatal mental health: studies that explore risk and protective factors for, and outcomes following perinatal mental health (that is mental health during pregnancy or in the year following childbirth); studies that evaluate or aim to improve interventions for perinatal mental health and care of women and infants in relation to perinatal mental health. The team have interests in the following topics:

  • birth trauma 
  • developing interventions to support positive perinatal mental health for women and families
  • evaluation of perinatal mental health services
  • examining the impact of childhood sexual abuse and associated mental health difficulties on perinatal outcomes 
  • mental health experiences and support needs for women from marginalised groups and those parenting in difficult circumstances 
  • support for parents who have experienced pregnancy, perinatal or infant loss 
  • impact of childbirth on mental health of partners and families

For discussion on these topics, please contact Dr Nicola Gray or Dr Albert Farre

Adverse and Positive Childhood Experiences: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) cover a wide range of adversities experienced from pre-birth and birth to age 18, including parental imprisonment, parental mental health and substance misuse issues, and child maltreatment and neglect. Positive Childhood Experiences are less well defined but include attachment, a sense of belonging, and peer relationships. Studies in this area might include the following topics:

  • women who use substances during pregnancy and postnatally including illegal or prescribed drugs
  • vulnerable migrants, asylum-seekers and trafficked women
  • humanitarian settings
  • homeless women; women in the criminal justice system; and women with disabilities
  • Child Maltreatment and neglect in the early years
  • Pregnancy for women who have previously had children removed
  • Attachment studies (which may overlap with infant feeding strand studies)

For discussion on these topics, please contact Dr Louise Marryat

Alison McFadden

Professor of Mother and Infant Public Health
 +44 (0)1382 388 735

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