Te Kukunetanga: Developing Cycle of Life Research Programme

Te Kukunetanga aims to improve the pregnancy journey and outcomes for wahine and their whanau.

A women’s body undergoes unique progressive changes in shape and size throughout pregnancy and in the six months after the birth. While it's generally accepted that the physical changes experienced throughout this time affect the way women walk, balance, exercise and carry out daily tasks, we currently have limited insight into how these changes evolve across time, and how they differ between women.

By monitoring physical and functional changes of women throughout pregnancy and post-natal, we can develop foundational knowledge of the pregnancy journey, which will provide an opportunity to inform health-related practices for pregnant women.

PEP project launch invite

Nau mai, haere mai! He pōwhiri tēnei ki a koe kia haere mai ki te whakarewanga me te hui whakamārama hoki i te kaupapa tuatahi i raro i te maru o te hōtaka rangahau, o Te Kukunetanga, ka titiro rā ki te kunenga o te hapūtanga.

AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack invites you to the launch of the Te Kukunetanga: Developing Cycle of Life Research Programme and its first project Physical Evolution through Pregnancy (TK-PEP).

The event will include a tour of the Te Kukunetanga whanau room and clinics that enable 3D body imaging, 3D movement analysis for walking and balance. There will be a Q&A panel along with beverages and kai.

When: Friday, 2 July 2021, 1pm-3pm
Where: AUT Millennium
RSVP: by 11 June via dee.holdsworth.perks@aut.ac.nz or 021 0511 579

Te Kukunetanga research projects

The Physical Evolution Through Exercise Project aims to improve health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies by monitoring changes in body shape and size, walking gait and balance throughout pregnancy and in the six months after the birth.

AUTEC ethics # 21/49

Principal investigator: Patria Hume

Associate investigators:

  • Dr Hannah Wyatt - AUT SPRINZ Post-doctoral Fellow, PEP Biomechanics Lead
  • Ms Sabina Just - AUT SPRINZ TK-PEP PhD scholar, certified and practicing midwife
  • Dr Kelly Sheerin - AUT Millennium SPRINZ Clinics Manager and Senior Lecturer, PEP Kinanthropometry Lead
  • Dr Heather Donald - AUT Clinical Lecturer, PEP Midwifery Lead
  • Dr Dean Mahuta - AUT Senior Lecturer, Vision Matauranga and Engagement Lead
  • Dr Sally Britnell – AUT Senior Lecturer, PEP Nursing Lead & Data Management Lead
  • Dr Sarah-Kate Millar - AUT Senior Lecturer, PEP Dynamic movement collaborator
  • Dr Nimisha Waller - AUT Clinical Lecturer, PEP Midwifery collaborator
  • Professor Susan Crowther - AUT Professor, PEP Midwifery collaborator
  • Professor Judith McAra-Couper - AUT Professor, PEP Midwifery collaborator
  • Dr Bridget Munro - PEP Biomechanics collaborator
  • Dr Jane Cappaert - PEP Biomechanics collaborator
  • Dr Emily Lawrence - PEP Biomechanics collaborator
  • Dr Cailee Caldwell - PEP Biomechanics collaborator

Find out more

Project in development

Principal investigator: Sabina Just​

PhD Co-Supervisors:

  • Dr Hannah Wyatt
  • Dr Heather Donald
  • Dr Sarah-Kate Millar.

Informed by the comprehensive longitudinal TK programme data set, the PCP project will investigate the influence of whole-body mass distribution changes throughout and post-pregnancy on strategies for static (balancing) and dynamic (walking) postural control. The research aim is to enhance our understanding of changes in whole-body stability, with the eventual purpose of developing interventions to enhance stability and reduce the risk of falls and potential injury for pregnant women.

Project in development

Principal investigator: Hannah Wyatt​

The Using Predictive Modelling to Improve Health Outcomes study will use TK data to model and predict physiological measures in pregnancy. Artificial intelligence analysis methods will help determine appropriate patient education and timing.

Project in development

Principal investigator: Sally Britnell​

Project in development

Principal investigator: Sarah Kate Millar

The consumption of a rich-nutrient diet is especially important during pregnancy. Although a variety of whole foods are optimal, ensuring all nutritional needs are met during pregnancy can be challenging. We aim to increase our understanding of women's food consumption during pregnancy, with the purpose of enhancing education and strategies for optimising nutrition.

Project in development

Principle Investigator: Professor Elaine Rush

As a free and easily accessible form of exercise, running is popular among the general population. We aim to understand how changes during pregnancy influence running gait and the loading experienced,  with the purpose of providing clear recommendations for engagement with running throughout and beyond pregnancy.

Project in development

Principal investigator: Mr Shuhao Wang (PhD candidate)

Mr Shuhao Wang is supported in this project as the first AUT-China Scholarship Council (CSC) Doctoral Fee Scholarship student recipient.

Associate Investigators:

  • Dr Hannah Wyatt
  • Dr Kelly Sheerin
  • Professor Patria Hume
  • Professor Thor Besier

We aim to provide evidence based post-pregnancy return to duty guidelines for military personnel. Currently following confirmation of pregnancy, and up to 12 months after delivery of the baby, a member of the military (air force, navy and army) is exempt from fitness testing, contact sports, and formal fitness classes. We would like to develop better guidelines that take into account the individual pregnancy experiences for wahine. This means we need to firstly understand what the experiences and physical and mental health implications are for military personnel through the pregnancy journey.

Project in development

Principal investigator: Helen Kilding

Associate Investigators: Dr Samantha Rodrigues, Mr Andrew Richardson, Dr Hannah Wyatt, Professor Patria Hume

The project will examine maternal psychological well-being throughout pregnancy and the post-natal period. We will look at what influences mothers’ anxiety, stress, wellbeing and engagement with exercise during and post- pregnancy in NZ. We will examine mothers’ attitudes toward exercise, exercise engagement and psychological wellbeing (e.g. depression/withdrawal/reduced activity; anxiety/perfectionism/avoidance). We aim to be able to improve mothers’ engagement with exercise in the post-natal period. Infant and mother wellbeing (e.g. health, physical factors, challenges like reflux, colic, sleep/settling which are tough on mums) will also be examined.

Project in development

Principal investigator: Dr Amy Kercher

Our partners


Virtual walk-through

View our 3D room walk-though and protocol video for participants for the Te Kukunetanga: Physical Evolution Through Pregnancy Project.

Tour the rooms

Contact us

Dee Holdsworth-Perks
Te Kukunetanga Research Programme Coordinator
021 0511 579

Our team

This research programme has been co-created with iwi, interdisciplinary researchers and people from various backgrounds and ethnicities.

Meet the team

Study with us

We are keen to collaborate with postgrad students who want to study how to improve health outcomes for pregnant women at master’s or doctoral level. Our supervisors are experienced in a range of fields.

Find out more