Improving decision-making on timing of birth for women with risk factors for stillbirth

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE)

The Stillbirth CRE is a national program funded by the NHMRC, and is a collaborative to bring leading experts together across Australia ( The overarching purpose of the Stillbirth CRE is to generate new knowledge that will lead to a reduction in the stillbirth rate and improve quality of care after stillbirth. With 6 stillbirths occurring in Australia every day (and over 7000 worldwide), and with major long-lasting psychosocial and financial burden to families, this is an urgent issue. Many of these deaths are potentially preventable with improved clinical care. The Stillbirth CRE is working closely with researchers, maternity care providers, parents and the community across a priority driven research program, which has a major focus on understanding factors contributing to stillbirth, implementing high quality research into clinical practice and community awareness. The coordinating centre of the Stillbirth CRE is at MRI-UQ located in Brisbane.

The Project/s

An exciting opportunity exists for a student interested in pursuing a PhD around reducing adverse pregnancy outcomes, with a focus on stillbirth. Stillbirth is a devastating pregnancy outcome with approximately 2,200 babies stillborn each year in Australia. The majority of stillbirths occur in normally formed infants in late gestation, and in 20-30% of stillbirths, the death would have been avoidable had care factors been addressed.

In partnership with health departments across Australia, a bundle of care (Safer Baby Bundle) to address the priority evidence practice gaps in stillbirth prevention has been developed and is being implemented nationally. The goal is to reduce stillbirth rates after 28 weeks’ gestation by 20%, with secondary outcome measures examining uptake of bundle elements, adverse neonatal outcomes, health service utilisation, women’s care experiences, clinician knowledge and confidence, and cost.

The Safer Baby Bundle (SBB) has five elements addressing commonly identified evidence practice gaps. These include: 1. Awareness and improving care of women with decreased fetal movements (DFM); 2. Pregnancy risk assessment and ongoing monitoring for fetal growth restriction (FGR); 3. Supporting women to stop smoking; 4. Providing advice for pregnant women on maternal sleep position; and 5. Supporting shared decision-making around timing of birth for women with risk factors for stillbirth.

The PhD project is aligned with the fifth element of the SBB and will explore novel strategies to help translate best-evidence into practice for timing of birth for women with risk factors at term. Research shows that women want to engage in their care and that women’s engagement is associated with better outcomes for mothers and babies. Shared decision-making is an approach where clinicians and patients share the best available evidence when faced with the task of making decisions, and where patients are supported to consider options to achieve informed preferences. Decision-making around timing of birth is often a preference-sensitive decision and materials are needed to enable women to make an informed decision based on a clear understanding of potential risks and benefits, which reflects their preferences and values. In practice shared decision-making can be challenging and tools are needed to support both women and clinicians.

The successful candidate will carry out research, which includes systematic reviews of the literature, identification of strategies to improve care using an analysis of barriers and enablers, followed by development and pilot testing of identified strategies.

The Role

The PhD opportunity is available for a student with an Honours/Master’s degree in a science/health related field to join the Stillbirth CRE coordinating centre at MRI-UQ. The candidate will have a strong interest in maternity or perinatal care and good knowledge of clinical research studies. Applicants with an interest in behavioural change theory and implementation science are encouraged. These projects are ideally suited to midwives and obstetric trainees interested in undertaking a PhD.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $28,854 per annum tax free (2022 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Vicki Flenady

Faculty of Medicine


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of behavioural change theory and implementation science would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

A background or knowledge of maternity or perinatal care and good knowledge of clinical research studies is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 4, 2024. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process