UNITED KINGDOM: New research examines suicide in new and expectant mothers

February 12, 2016

News Type:  Weekly Spark News


A new study looked at suicide deaths in women who had recent contact with mental health services and compared those who died during pregnancy and the first postnatal year (perinatal) to those who died outside of those times (non-perinatal). This study, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, used UK national data for 1997-2012. Although only a very small percentage of the women who died by suicide were pregnant or postpartum, the results show some notable new findings. Most significantly, the perinatal women were more likely to have a diagnosis of depression than the non-perinatal women and were less likely to be getting psychiatric treatment, including medication. According to Dr. Hind Khalifeh of the Health Service and Population Research Department at King’s College London, “Depression is arguably under-recognized as a leading cause of perinatal suicide, with much public and clinical attention focused on the scarce, but very high-risk presentation of postnatal psychosis. . . Clinicians should be aware that women with severe perinatal depression in particular are a group at risk of suicide who need careful monitoring and treatment. . . Clinicians should ensure that women who choose not to take medication are offered adequate and timely alternative treatments and appropriate follow-up.”

Spark Extra! For other recent news on depression and suicide in perinatal women, see the news story “All U.S. adults should be screened for depression, panel recommends.”