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Will undertook a Professional Training Year at the University of Sydney

Exeter undergraduate contributes to international research

An Exeter student has contributed to an international review on the effects of heat stressors in pregnancy.

Will Casasola, a final Medical Sciences student, contributed to the research whilst undertaking a Professional Training Year (PTY) at the University of Sydney last year.

The review, conducted with scientists from the University of Sydney and the University of Ottawa, suggests that pregnant women can exercise in warm weather, use saunas, and take hot baths without risking the health of their unborn baby.

The study, led by Dr Ollie Jay, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, contradicts current guidelines which advise expectant mothers to avoid such activities.

Researchers analysed the results of 12 studies, reporting the core temperature response of 347 pregnant women to heat stress, either through exercise or through passive heating, such as using a sauna or sitting in a hot bath. No woman exceeded the recommended core temperature limit of 39℃ across all studies, suggesting that the risk of heat stress is low.

Will said: “The purpose of this review was to report current findings and how they were actually applicable to pregnant women now and to guide future research in this field.

It feels great to have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people and finally see that work come to fruition. I was lucky enough to work in a large team where I could take the advice of experienced researchers, allowing me to improve on valuable scientific skills like statistical analysis and research writing.

I feel really privileged to have been given the opportunity to collaborate on this project and to be a published author whilst still an undergraduate is something I never thought I would achieve and that I will be proud of for a long time.”

Dr John Chilton, PTY lead at the Medical School, said: “We’re always impressed by the achievements of our PTY students, and we’re really proud of Will for his work on this research with global impact. It shows the value of the PTY in enhancing students’ skills in real-world science, which will benefit them greatly in their future careers.”

The paper, Heat stress and fetal risk. Environmental limits for exercise and passive heat stress during pregnancy: a systematic review with best evidence synthesis, was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

You can read more on the study here.

Date: 14 March 2018

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