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Health-care providers should be alert to risk of suicide among pregnant women and new mothers
Date:11/30/2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Increased screening of pregnant women and new mothers for major depression and conflicts with intimate partners may help identify women at risk for suicide, a University of Michigan Health System-led analysis of federal data concludes.

Only a small percentage of women who take their own lives are pregnant or have recently become mothers, but their frequent interactions with the health care system may provide important opportunities for providers to intervene if risk factors are better understood, the researchers say.

Their findings were published online this month ahead of print publication in General Hospital Psychiatry.

"We have a more complete picture now of who these women are and what led up to these tragic events," says lead study author Katherine J. Gold, M.D., M.S.W., M.S., assistant professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School. "These deaths ripple through families and communities and cause a lot of sorrow and devastation."

The study analyzed five years of suicide data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, which was introduced in 2003. The dataset is unique for linking multiple sources of information together to provide details that include demographics, pregnancy status, mental health and substance abuse status, and precipitating circumstances.

More than half of the women who killed themselves had a known mental health diagnosis, with mood disorder being the most common at 95 percent. Nearly half were known to have a depressed mood leading up to the suicide.

"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.

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Contact: Ian Demsky
idemsky@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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