A very recent study published online in the General Hospital Psychiatry journal claims additional services may be needed by women who are pregnant and those who have just delivered a child. Assessing the risk of suicide as well as general psychological status might prevent possible suicide in the future.

Dr. Katherine J. Gold, a physician and the lead investigator of the study, explains that the sorrow and devastation that extends to family members and the community, which results from the deaths of these women can be prevented by getting a glimpse of how and who these women are at present, thus the tragic events can be averted.

Another investigator of the study and at the same time, an obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Christine Palladino, further mentions that depression is already known as a risk factor in suicides not just among pregnant women but in the population as a whole. This fact has been established in previous studies among pregnant women and those who just gave birth showing that about 14 to 23 percent of this group suffers depression while an estimated 10 to 12 percent are affected by anxiety disorders. However, the study has novel results in that it was able to illustrate another factor that affects psychosocial issues and possibly suicide among postpartum and pregnant women – a higher rate of incidences of intimate partner conflicts.

The data used in the study came from the National Violent Death Reporting System which was introduced in 2003. The reporting system helps provide researchers with important details such as demographic data; status of mental health, pregnancy and history of substance abuse; and the circumstances that may have precipitated the event. The investigators from the University of Michigan collected and organized the suicide data and found out that more than half of the suicide cases among the pregnant population were patients diagnosed with a mental health problem. Mood disorders accounted for 95% of the women who committed suicide with about half of the cases feeling low or depressed before the act was committed.

The same pattern was also observed in the data on women who were in their immediate postpartum period, with 56% of them diagnosed with psychosocial problems, 32 percent attempting suicide in the past, and about 28 percent battling issues of substance abuse and alcoholism during the suicide.

A deeper analysis of the data further shows that women who just gave birth have higher incidences of reporting depressive states, women of Hispanic ethnicity having a 10% increase in the chances of committing suicide while pregnant and a 9% chance after delivering their child.

Source: General Hospital Psychiatry. 1 December, 2011.