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Maternal suicide rates climbing

Aug 31, 2017

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Study shows time before and after birth is critical for new moms

Dr. Sophie Grigoriadis, a scientist in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute and a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook, led a population-based study that investigated suicide rates in women during pregnancy and following childbirth.

Maternal suicide is a leading cause of death for new mothers. Researchers looked at coroner death records of women in Ontario from 1994 to 2008. They observed a suicide rate of 2.58 per 100,000 live births. They found one of every 19 maternal deaths in Ontario was due to suicide during the perinatal phase of motherhood, relating to the time before and after birth.

Results showed pregnant women or new moms used more violent means to die, such as hanging, jumping or falling, compared to women who were not pregnant, who tended to overdose on drugs to end their lives. In addition, about 39% of perinatal women had contact with a mental health provider within 30 days before their death. The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Researchers say these findings suggest there is a need to improve perinatal mental health services, and to assess pregnant and postpartum women for signs of anxiety, depression or risk of suicide.

» Read the full story at CBC News and CTV News