Friday, 2 December 2011

Suicide Risk Among Pregnant Women And New Mothers

"Previous research has shown that depressive disorders affect 14-23 percent of pregnant and postpartum women and anxiety disorders affect 10-12 percent," says study senior author Christie Palladino, M.D., M.Sc., an obstetrician/gynecologist with Georgia Health Sciences University's Education Discovery Institute. "We've known that major depression is a factor in suicide for a long time.

"But this data tells us, for example, that pregnant and postpartum women had a much higher incidence of conflicts with intimate partners than their counterparts," Palladino continues.

Postpartum women were also more likely to have been identified as having a depressed mood in the two weeks prior to suicide than other women, the study found.

Also important, researchers found many similarities that did not vary significantly by pregnancy status: 56 percent of all victims had a known mental health diagnosis; 32 percent had previously attempted suicide; and 28 percent had a known alcohol or substance abuse issue at the time of death.

"Depression and substance use are risk factors for everyone, including pregnant and postpartum women," Gold adds.

The researchers also found that while education level and marital status were very similar across pregnant, postpartum and non-pregnant suicides, Hispanic women were far more likely to take their own lives while pregnant (10 percent of suicides among pregnant women) or within a year of pregnancy (9 percent of postpartum suicides) than when not pregnant (4 percent of non-pregnancy associated suicides).

The researchers acknowledge some inherent limitations of the data. Their sample of 2,083 suicides among women of plausible child-bearing age (15-54), was drawn only from the 17 states where data was available. It is also was impossible to interview the victims and get a full picture of mental health conditions, unreported domestic violence and other precipitating factors.

"As a society, we tend to avoid talking about suicide," Gold says. "But it's important to try to understand and talk about risk factors if we are going to address suicide from a public health perspective."

Additional References Citations Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
Visit our depression section for the latest news on this subject. Additional authors: Sheila M. Marcus, M.D.; Vijay Singh, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.; both of U-M.
Funding: National Institutes of Health grant.
Disclosure: None.
Citation: "Mental Health, substance use, and intimate partner problems among pregnant and postpartum suicide victims in the National Violent Death Reporting System," General Hospital Psychiatry, doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2011.09.017
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