Women's experiences of severe postnatal psychiatric illness: a systematic review protocol

Harpreet Kaur Sihre, Anne-Marie Simons, Paramjit Gill, Antje Lindenmeyer, Qulsom Fazil

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BACKGROUND: Super diversity has become a twenty-first-century phenomena in the UK. The Five Year Forward View Plan for Mental Health commits to improving access to Perinatal Mental Health services for all new mothers. Existing research indicates various postnatal mental illness aetiologies, traditional practices and beliefs, which are important to explore during medical consultation to achieve a collaborative relationship between the patient and clinician. The study of severe postnatal psychiatric illnesses is well established in the quantitative literature; however, the subjective experiences of mothers with severe psychiatric illnesses after childbirth have been given little attention. The aim of this systematic review is to synthesise the small body of qualitative findings, which will achieve a deeper understanding of mothers' experiences and understandings. This integration of qualitative data is invaluable in facilitating culturally competent strategies in Western settings and informing future research.

METHODS/DESIGN: This protocol proposes a systematic review of qualitative literature of severe postnatal psychiatric illnesses, using a meta-ethnography approach following the PRISMA-P guidelines. A comprehensive search strategy will be developed to undertake a systematic search via online databases to identify eligible articles. Studies will be considered for eligibility if they include mothers aged 18 and over who have been diagnosed with a severe psychiatric illness during the postnatal period; present primary data on women's illness experiences; use qualitative methods. Titles and abstracts will be screened by the primary reviewer to identify potential papers. Two independent reviewers will access and read texts in full and agree on the final list of included studies. Discrepancies will be resolved via consultation with a third independent reviewer. The final list of included studies for review will be methodologically appraised by two independent reviewers using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. This systematic review protocol has been registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO): CRD42018093674.

DISCUSSION: To date, no systematic review following a meta-ethnographic approach on qualitative explorations of mothers worldwide diagnosed with severe postnatal psychiatric illnesses has been conducted. An amalgamation of this information enables a deeper understanding of how severe postnatal psychiatric illnesses manifests across cultures. This information is useful when devising culturally competent care.


Original languageEnglish
Article number173
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019


  • Meta-ethnography
  • Perinatal Mental Health Services
  • Protocol
  • Qualitative research
  • Severe postnatal psychiatric illness
  • Systematic review


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