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Dr Gemma Sharp

Dr Gemma Sharp

Associate Professor

 Washington Singer 117


Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4QG, UK


I’m an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Exeter, where I research and teach about women’s mental health, reproductive health, and early life influences on health and wellbeing.

I was born in Bristol and grew up a few miles south in Nailsea. I did my undergraduate BSc in Biology at Cardiff University, then my MSc in Reproduction and Development at the University of Bristol, and my PhD in Reproductive Health at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh. Prior to working in Exeter, I worked for nine years as a postdoc, lecturer and senior lecturer at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol.


PhD Reproductive Biology - University of Edinburgh

MSc Reproduction and Development - University of Bristol

BSc Biology - Cardiff University


Research group links


Research interests

You can find a list of all my reseach outputs here.

I’m interested in addressing important contemporary questions around the health and wellbeing of women and young people. To do this, I use population-level “big data”, including data on genetics and epigenetics (i.e. “molecular” epidemiology).

Women’s reproductive health

The menstrual cycle and menstrual health
I established the Menarche, Menstruation, Menopause and Mental Health (4M) consortium to facilitate collaborative research into how the menstrual cycle interacts with mental health. This association is likely to be extremely complex and multidirectional, involving interactions between genetics, reproductive hormones and other physiological processes, but also environmental factors including lifestyle and social, political and structural influences on health and wellbeing.

Pregnancy health
My PhD was entitled Comprehensive data analysis to study parturition (“parturition” = childbirth). Since my PhD, I’ve been involved with several studies of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

Early life and prenatal influences on child and adult health

I’m interested in how our early environments and experiences can shape our health and wellbeing into adulthood.

Traditionally, research on the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) has focused on the influence of the lifestyle of pregnant women on the health of their children. Although much of the evidence has been correlative (rather than showing robust causal effects), it has been used to back up public health policies and clinical practices that seek to change pregnant women’s behaviour. Through my research, I have tried to improve the causal evidence base in DOHaD by studying potentially causal biological mechanisms and using genetic and statistical approaches to infer causality. I have also tried to expand the traditional focus on pregnant women to study paternal factors and the wider social determinants of health as well.

Cleft lip and/or palate
Some of my research has focused more specifically on particular conditions in children; exploring the early-life causes of these conditions, as well as the consequences. Most notably, I’m a key member of the Cleft Collective research team at the University of Bristol, where I’ve led research on the epidemiology of cleft lip and/or palate.

Research projects

My main research projects and activities include:

  • Menarche, Menstruation, Menopause and Mental Health (4M)
  • Exploring Prenatal influences on Child Health (EPoCH)
  • Understanding and improving mental health and neurodevelopment in children born with a cleft lip/palate


Research networks

External Engagement and Impact

I have an honorary position at the University of Bristol MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit


I teach undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing professional development courses relevant to my research interests and expertise in molecular epidemiology and reproductive health.

I enjoy designing courses, sessions and assessments that are ‘constructively alligned’, which helps student to meet the intended learning outcomes for the teaching. My sessions are interactive and use a range of media and activities. I particularly like using a ‘flipped classroom’ approach where students are given some digital material to read/watch/complete in their own time before coming to a live session to participate in interactive discussions and group tasks.

Supervision / Group

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