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Perinatal mental health problems are the most common complication of childbearing.1 Overall, around 15-20% of women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or around the time of birth. Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death between six weeks and one year after giving birth, accounting for one in seven deaths. The project supervisors have worked with a theatrical team to highlight these issues through the medium of drama. The resulting stage play, after birth, draws directly on key research messages and women’s lived experience, with the aim of raising awareness and reducing stigma. 

The aim of this project is to explore and investigate the feasibility and potential of after birth to be used as a therapeutic tool for women with postnatal mental health problems, using the MRC Framework for developing and evaluating complex interventions.2 There would also be the possibility to consider the potential use of the play as a training tool for health professionals working with women affected by postnatal mental illness.


1. Howard LM, Khalifeh H. Perinatal mental health: a review of progress and challenges. World Psychiatry 2020; 19:313-327.

2. Medical Research Council. Developing and evaluating complex interventions. MRC. Available from:


The project will involve a wide range of research skills, which may include: systematic review/meta-analysis; qualitative interviewing and analysis; complex intervention design, development and evaluation; writing for publication and presentation at scientific meetings.

Components of the project could include:

  • A systematic review/meta-analysis
  • A qualitative interview study exploring women’s/professionals experiences of watching the play

Design, development and feasibility testing/piloting of an intervention using after birth as a therapeutic or training tool. 


Based in the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, the student will be part of a thriving and stimulating multi-disciplinary research environment. Training will be provided in systematic reviewing, qualitative research methods and intervention development.  The student will also have access to a range of training in transferable and research skills provided by the University of Oxford.

Prospective candidate

This project is suitable for a student with previous training and experience in qualitative methods who has an interest in maternal mental health and the use of theatre/the arts to improve mental wellbeing.