Psychological Medicine

Brief Communications

Parasuicide in the first postnatal year

Louis Applebya1 c1 and Gill Turnbulla1

a1 Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester; Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College Hospital, London


Data were collected on a consecutive 6 month sample of women aged 15–44 years attending their catchment area Casualty Department because of parasuicide. Information included age and childbirth within the previous year. Using this information and catchment area data on population size and births, an odds ratio for parasuicide in postnatal as compared to nonpostnatal women was calculated. Five of 131 study subjects had delivered a baby in the previous 12 months. The odds ratio was calculated to be 0·43 (95% confidence interval 0·17–0·95). These findings suggest that the rate of parasuicide in the first postnatal year is low despite the high rate of psychiatric morbidity at this time. The result supports previous findings on suicide and suggests that postnatal women, despite their high rates of psychiatric disorder, are protected against fatal and non-fatal self harm. The implications for postnatal and suicide prevention services are discussed.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Louis Appleby, Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester M20 8LR.