Deakin – Copenhagen(SUND) - Weight management intervention for pregnant women with a high preconception BMI

Applications now open. A joint PhD scholarship with Deakin University and the University of Copenhagen is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic ‘Guided Self-Determination – a weight management intervention for pregnant women with a high preconception body mass index.’

Project Supervisor

Associate Supervisors

Dr Sara Holton

Dr Anne-Sophie Mathiesen, University of Copenhagen

Professor Vibeke Zoffmann, University of Copenhagen


Melbourne Burwood Campus and University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Research topic

This project and scholarship are offered as part of a collaborative joint PhD program with the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by a team of leading researchers from Deakin University and University of Copenhagen and will graduate with a joint PhD from both institutions. The project will also be conducted in collaboration with Western Health, a large tertiary health service in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia. It is anticipated that the student will spend up to 6 months in Copenhagen during the candidature.

The prevalence of obesity in Australia is rising with approximately 45% of women of reproductive age estimated to be overweight or obese. Obesity during and after pregnancy is a serious health problem for women and their children. Women with a high preconception body mass index (BMI) are at greater risk of obstetric and perinatal complications. Pregnancy care provides an opportunity to offer weight management interventions and reduce morbidities. However, to date, weight management strategies for pregnant women with high BMI have had limited effects.

Assisting women to manage their weight during pregnancy is a challenge for pregnancy care providers. There is a need for evidence-based and effective person-centered healthcare interventions that offer clear advice and non-judgmental support and enable women to self-manage a healthy weight during pregnancy. Behavioral strategies which utilize technology platforms, appear to be important components of successful antenatal weight management intervention programs.

The main objective of this study is to develop and evaluate a structured and evidence-based online intervention that aims to support women with a high preconception BMI to manage their weight during pregnancy.

The proposed intervention will be based on Guided Self-Determination (GSD). GSD is a problem-solving and decision-making method, which prompts clients, with the support of a trained health care provider, to systematically explore and express their personal difficulties and experiences with their condition and discover their potential for change. GSD is underpinned by life-skills, empowerment motivational theories and is autonomy-supportive. GSD has been shown to be effective in improving clinical and psychosocial outcomes in the self-management skills of people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes. Promising results have been observed in a pilot study which used GSD to support women with high BMI. The proposed intervention will be offered in an online program flexible enough to meet the needs of women during pregnancy. Evidence generated in this project will contribute to the development of a novel, effective, acceptable and supportive approach to weight management during pregnancy, which will assist in improving maternal and infant health outcomes.

Project aim

The aim of this project is to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of Guided-Self Determination (GSD) as a weight management intervention for pregnant women with a high preconception body mass index.

Important dates

Applications will remain open until a candidate has been appointed


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,900 per annum tax exempt (2022 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate
  • International students only:  Tuition fees offset for the duration of 4 years. Single Overseas Student Health Cover policy for the duration of the student visa.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate currently residing in Australia. Domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship.
  • meet the entry requirements for Deakin's Phd Program and University of Copenhagen's PhD program
  • Deakin's PhD entry requirements and the entry
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.
  • be able to travel to University of Copenhagen, Denmark as required

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

Please apply using the Find a Research Supervisor tool


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Prof Bodil Rasmussen or Dr Sara Holton

Prof Bodil Rasmussen
Chair In Nursing (Western Health)
Email Bodil Rasmussen
0466 395 623

Dr Sara Holton
Senior Research Fellow
Email Sara Holton
+61 3 8395 8190