The validity of prior studies on the menstrual cycle and suicide attempts assumes that suicidal women accurately describe their cycles. The three objectives of this study were 1) to explore whether prior inconsistencies are due to the effects of sample selection and method of assessment of the menstrual cycle, 2) to assess the relationship between the menstrual cycle phase and suicide attempts, and 3) to establish the role of sexual hormones in suicide attempts.
The original sample included 134 women who came to the emergency room of a general hospital after a suicide attempt. One hundred eight female blood donors were recruited as control subjects. The menstrual cycle was divided into follicular, midcycle, and luteal phases using two clinical methods and serum hormonal assessment. Dividing the follicular phase into menstrual and nonmenstrual phases was also considered.
Two of 11 previously used sampling methods produced a sample size similar to that of the hormonal assessment. κ values between the two clinical and the endocrinological methods were low (0.40–0.50). The number of suicide attempts during the follicular phase (particularly during the menstrual phase) was significantly higher than expected.
Despite the inability to control for other variables and limitations, the results of this study suggest that sample selection could introduce biases and that studies relating psychiatric symptomatology and menstrual cycle phases need to use hormonal determinations. New studies are needed to verify that suicide attempts are more frequent during the follicular phase (particularly during the menstrual phase).