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Effects of extreme heat on pregnant and lactating women and their offspring in India


Supervisor will depend on project focus.

Dr Gabriel Jones

Dr Manu Vatish

Aris Papageorghiou

Fadil Hannan

Second Supervisors:

Jane Hirst (Imperial College London), Basky Thilaganathan (St George’s London)


Anthropogenic climate change is predicted to severely affect workability and liveability in many parts of South Asia. Heat exposure during pregnancy has been associated with preterm birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, preterm rupture of membranes, preeclampsia, and other pregnancy complications. India contributes just under one-fifth of the 130 million global births annually, with high rates of adverse outcomes observed among pregnant workers exposed to high occupational heat. Numerous adaptive physiological measures enable pregnant women to maintain their core temperature within normal limits despite the physiological changes of pregnancy that would otherwise act to impede heat dissipation. Understanding how climate, physiological adaptation and maladaptation interact is an urgent priority and crucial to prevent adverse outcomes.

As part of a large Wellcome Trust-funded project, and in collaboration with partners in India, there is an opportunity for a DPhil project examining in depth some of the potential physiological and pathophysiological responses to extreme heat.

Potential projects could explore the effects of heat exposure on one or more of the following topics:

(i)               fetal heart rate using large scale nationally representative CTG data captured across India

and in a prospective cohort of 600 women from three sites in India with detailed microclimate exposure measurement throughout pregnancy:

(ii)              Maternal haemodynamics

(iii)            Fetal and uterine blood flow parameters and fetal growth

(iv)            Circulating placental biomarkers of placental stress

Effects on lactation initiation, transitional milk and milk composition 


This DPhil will involve field work to develop SOPs and train field teams in India to collect the data in the prospective cohort study; ensure quality and rigorous data across a multi-site study; and work with the local project manager and site coordinators.

The student will be working with a diverse and international team, including scientists from the Translational Health Sciences and Technology Institute (THSTI), Delhi, the George Institute for Global Health, Delhi and Hyderabad, SRIHER Chennai, PIMS Puducherry, IIT Delhi and Caremother Mumbai.

Depending on the area/s of focus, additional training will be available in either sample processing (to be done in India), bioinformatics and machine learning.

The successful candidate will join a large international team of researchers and learn skills in global health research, analysis and interpretation and communication of findings.

Funding information

DPhil fees and travel associated with the project will be covered through the Wellcome Trust grant for UK students. International applicants are welcome to apply, however additional funding may be required.


To apply for this research degree, please click here.