Homicide, suicide outpace traditional causes of death in pregnant, postpartum women

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Violent deaths are outpacing traditional causes of maternal mortality, such as hemorrhage and preeclampsia, and conflicts with intimate partner are often a factor, researchers report. “We found that the mortality rate from homicide and suicide were more common than what we think of as traditional causes of maternal mortality,” said Dr. Christie L. Palladino, an obstetrician-gynecologist and educational researcher at Georgia Health Sciences University. “It’s not what you want to read, but it’s the reality.”

The analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System, a surveillance system from 17 states, found 94 pregnancy-associated suicides and 139 homicides from 2003-07. Overall, 64.4 percent of pregnancy-associated violent deaths – classified by the CDC as death during pregnancy and the following year – occurred during pregnancy. The mortality rate was 4.9 per 100,000 live births.

The findings, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, are a wakeup call for health care providers and families alike about the need for mental health awareness and treatment at a time typically associated with great joy, said Palladino who is working to enhance training of obstetrician-gynecologists in depression diagnosis and treatment.

Read the full story from Georgia Health Sciences University.