Background: Maternal mental health during the peripartum period is critically important to the wellbeing of mothers and their infants. Numerous studies and clinical trials have focused on various aspects of interventions and treatments for perinatal mental health from the perspective of researchers and medical health professionals. However, less is known about women’s experiences of participating in perinatal mental health research, and the ethical issues that arise.
Aim: To systematically review the literature on the ethical issues that emerge from pregnant and/or postpartum women’s experiences of taking part in perinatal mental health-related research.
Methods: Systematic review of nine bibliographic databases, from inception to July 2021. Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method studies were included if they reported on ethical issues experienced by perinatal women. Research ethical issues encompassed any issue relating to women’s experiences of being offered study information, recruitment, consent, retention and respect for autonomy. Titles, abstracts and full text screening, appraisal of the methodological quality of included studies, and data extraction, were conducted independently by two reviewers.
Ethical considerations: Ethical approval was not required for this systematic review.
Findings: A total of 9830 unique citations was retrieved. Six studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies were clinically and methodologically heterogenous, and only one was purposively designed to explore women’s experiences. The key finding was the establishment of trust between the researcher and participant in all stages of the research process. Findings are presented according to recruitment and consent processes, participation and retention, and study follow-up and completion.
Conclusion: The establishment of trust between the researcher and perinatal women leads to a dynamic with research ethical implications relevant to all stages of perinatal mental health-related research. Further research on the research ethical issues experienced by perinatal women is required because of the limited literature.
- Mental health
- Systematic review