Study timeline

The Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort is a longitudinal study, which means we are going to be seeing the same children, and their parents, at intervals across many years. This illustrates the timeline for the first five years of the study – you can click on each point to get more information about what happens at that appointment.

Antenatal & birth

We will focus on gathering information about pregnancy and labour, and recording details of any special care received by the baby before or during their birth. We will interview mothers but also, with their permission, extract information from medical records.


At the point of birth we hope to collect detailed information about the baby’s biology including placental samples and blood from the umbilical cord. These amazing resources will allow us to chart the influence of genes and early exposure to infection on the baby’s later development.

Neonatal period (from birth to leaving hospital)

During this period we will collect blood, saliva and nasal samples and collect the baby’s first dirty nappies – these will help us understand the early biological profile of each baby. We will record the baby’s basic physical properties – weight, head size etc. And finally each baby will be invited for a state-of-the-art brain scan in a specially fitted-out MRI scanner. While mothers are still in the hospital, we will ask them to complete some questionnaires

Four and a half months

This appointment will be a chance to quickly check in with babies and their parents after they have gone home from the hospital. We will ask parents to fill in a pack of questionnaires about their well-being and their baby’s developing personality and send them back to us.

Nine months

This appointment will be the first one to take place away from the hospital, in our dedicated ‘child development lab’. We will take nasal and saliva samples again, and repeat some of the questionnaires from before. This will also be our first appointment to feature eye-tracking – a way to record where a baby is looking using special cameras, so we can work out what they like and know. We will also film parents playing with their babies. This is an amazing way to capture a child’s developing abilities.

Two years

As at nine months, this appointment in our lab will focus on eye-tracking, questionnaires for parents and a filmed play session. At this point, premature babies will also be invited for a standardised assessment as part of their regular NHS follow-up care, and we will ask to have access to this information too.

Five years

Our children will have started school, or be getting ready to start, by this point – they will have come a long way since their first few weeks on the neonatal wards at the Simpson Maternity Unit! As at the previous two appointments, we will be gathering information via questionnaires for parents, eye-tracking and filming parents and children playing together. This will also include some more games for children designed to evaluate their specific learning skills in more detail.