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Suicidal behaviour and the menstrual cycle

  • KATE E. A. SAUNDERS (a1) and KEITH HAWTON (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 July 2006

Background. To investigate the available data regarding possible associations between phases of the menstrual cycle and suicidal behaviour.

Method. A systematic search of major relevant databases was performed using appropriate search terms.

Results. Forty-four relevant studies were identified in total, 13 pertaining to suicide, two pertaining to both attempted and completed suicide, 23 to suicide attempts, three to suicide attempts in those suffering from the premenstrual syndrome (PMS), three to suicidal ideation and two to repetitive self-harming behaviours. A variety of methodologies were used in these studies and there were notable differences in the conclusions reached. Studies with better methodology suggest that a positive relationship exists between aspects of the menstrual cycle and non-fatal suicidal behaviour. Such behaviour appears to be more common in those phases of the menstrual cycle when oestrogen levels are lowest (the late luteal and follicular phases), and in those suffering from PMS.

Conclusions. There appears to be an association between the menstrual cycle and non-fatal suicidal behaviours. Interaction between oestrogen and the serotonergic system may provide a possible mechanism.

Corresponding author
Warneford Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7JX, UK. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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