5 May 2020

Investigating suicide attempts and life-threatening self-harm can further our understanding of the difficulties these women are experiencing and help inform future prevention strategies. Using data from multiple sources, including clinical records and qualitative interviews with women, friends and family members, this study aims to investigate the contextual factors surrounding these perinatal self-harm and suicide attempts, and the experiences and support needs of women and families.

Mother and  newborn baby in yellow sleepsuit

How the research will be carried out

A mixed methods investigation will be conducted to help better understand the needs and experiences of women who have attempted suicide, or were admitted to hospital for self-harm during the perinatal period.

Two related studies are being undertaken

1. The ASPEN Study: Attempted suicide in the perinatal period: A study of life-threatening suicide attempts during pregnancy and early motherhood

The ASPEN study is an exploration of the experiences of women who had a life-threatening attempted suicide during the perinatal period, and that of their partner, friends, or family members.

We aim to interview 20-30 women who have had a life-threatening suicide attempt during the perinatal period, to understand their experiences and circumstances of the event, what healthcare was used, what support they needed and their views on suicide prevention. We will also interview friends, partners, or family members, nominated by the women, to understand their perspectives, views on prevention and support following the suicide attempt.

The interviews will focus on women’s feelings about pregnancy and motherhood, factors in their life leading up to their attempted suicide, and their experiences of accessing support and healthcare following the attempted suicide. We will invite women to ask a significant other (partner, friend or family member) to also take part in an interview about their experiences and support needs.

2. Near fatal self harm in the perinatal period: A data linkage study

Using  linked clinical data from mental healthcare records (CRIS), linked with hospital admission data, we aim to investigate the characteristics, clinical presentations and risk factors of women who have had an acute medical hospital admission for self-harm during the perinatal period. Hospital admission data will be analysed to determine the characteristics of the women, access to health service, and maternal and neonatal health following the admission. Written clinical mental health notes will be qualitatively analysed to identify potential risks, warning signs, service use, care and case management preceding and following the events.

Potential benefits of the research

This research will enable us to better understand the factors surrounding near fatal self-harm and suicide attempts during the perinatal period.  We hope the findings will inform strategies and recommendations to help identify women at risk of suicide during the perinatal period, improve the care and support of women and families receive, and ultimately prevent future self-harm admissions and suicide during the perinatal period.



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