A new study finds that death by suicide and homicide are more common than “traditional” causes of maternal mortality in the U.S., such as infection or hemorrhage. So why is it that those traditional causes of maternal death are so much more likely to be discussed and reported?
By analyzing records from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University found a total of 94 pregnancy-associated suicides — meaning women who killed themselves either during pregnancy or in the first year after birth – between 2003 and 2007. This would work out to a rate of 2 suicides per every 100,000 births. We don’t know whether any of these women were diagnosed with antenatal or postpartum depression, but we can guess it’s likely they were not, given the overall lack of awareness and screening for these illnesses.
The researchers also say there may be more maternal suicides of which we are unaware, because, as Science Daily reports, those numbers could be underreported, “… because the pregnancy or postpartum status was marked ‘unknown’ in the majority of female deaths in the CDC database.”