Pregnancy is not always a happy moment. Suicide is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, according to a new study.
“There is no doubt that pregnancy is a time when mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, are manifesting”, says Dr. Richard Silver.
“Generally pregnant women go through some hormonal changes, and this makes them vulnerable to mental illness. Also, the hope that pregnancy will be a happy moment may be unrealistic”, he adds. For this study, Canadian researchers tracked women from Ontario between 1994 and 2008. They found that 5% of deaths during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth were caused by suicide.
Research emphasizes the importance of careful monitoring of the mental health of women during pregnancy, but also afterwards when many of them are struggling with depression. “Postnatal depression may take much longer than we think. Even though reported rates vary, some studies show that it affects nearly 20% of mothers. Although the postnatal period is six weeks after birth, research shows that many women also commit suicide seven months after birth. This means we must continue to be vigilant in assessing women in the first year after pregnancy”, says study author Dr. Sophie Grigoriadis.
Deaths during and soon after pregnancy have increased in the United States since 2000, according to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology last year. Dr. Sophie Grigoriadis estimates that in 2014 in the US nearly 24 women died during pregnancy or within 42 days of birth.
Grigoriadis and her colleagues found that 51 (5.3%) of nearly 1,000 women in Illinois committed suicide during pregnancy or after they raised their baby in their arms. “4% of the 453 deaths had suicide as a cause. We have the same statistics in Canada. Generally, the pregnancy and the post-period are perceived as moments of joy for women. When we see that they are as vulnerable as in other moments of life, it is probably surprising”, she adds.
Another recent study, led by researchers at the University of North Carolina, found that about half of the 211 women who became mothers over the past three years accused postnatal mood disorders such as anxiety or depression. However, a woman in five has silenced these conditions.