We would like to congratulate Sarah Hampton on completing her PhD! Sarah completed her PhD thesis titled “Autistic mothers and the perinatal period: maternal experiences and infant development” under the supervision of Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, Dr. Rosie Holt, and Dr. Carrie Allison. Here, Sarah gives us a quick summary of her work and findings.
Can you give us a short background into what your PhD/MPhil was about?
My PhD was about the experiences of mothers with a diagnosis of autism and the development of their infants. I looked at how autistic mothers experience the physical aspects of pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, as well as their healthcare needs during this time. I used interviews, questionnaires and surveys to explore these issues. I also looked at how autistic mothers and their infants play together, and whether the mental wellbeing of autistic and non-autistic mothers is related to their infants’ brain development.
How would you sum up your main findings?
I found that the sensory and physical aspects of motherhood (such as nausea, pain and sensory changes during pregnancy, and the sensory aspects of breastfeeding) were heightened for autistic mothers. Autistic mothers reported needing maternity care accommodations such as sensory and communication adjustments, continuity of care and alternatives to group support. Autistic mothers further felt that greater training about autism in women would be beneficial for healthcare professionals and would help ensure that appropriate accommodations are made.
What made you want to do a PhD?
I enjoyed research during my master’s degree and wanted to do more independent research at PhD level. I also wanted to be involved with research that could have a positive impact upon those within the autistic community.
Do you have any words of advice to future PhD/MPhil students in Psychiatry?
Always make sure to keep good notes as you go along, as you may not remember what you did when you later come back to it! Maintaining work/life balance and doing things you enjoy outside of the PhD is also really important!
What do you hope to do next?
I’m currently staying on as a post-doc at the Autism Research Centre and I hope to go on to find another post-doc position afterwards.