Growth in Postpartum Violence

With Amalie asleep, Leilani is texting friends and family
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

You’re probably aware that postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are dangerous conditions that, if not treated, can be dangerous. In some instances, they can even lead to death. What you might not realize, however, is just how real a threat these conditions are. They’re more common than you might think. In addition, depression and relationship problems during pregnancy can turn fatal much more often that you’d expect.

According to a recent study, homicide and suicide are actually more common causes of a mother’s death than certain other types of pregnancy risks.

The study looked at numbers from the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System, which pulls in data from 17 different states. During the period from 2003 to 2007, it found 94 suicides related to pregnancy and 139 homicides related to pregnancy.

Of those violent deaths related to pregnancy, about 64.4 actually occurred during pregnancy rather than after it.

Suicide is a bigger problem postpartum, with just under 46 percent of the suicides happening during pregnancy and the remainder during the postpartum period. Homicides were more common during pregnancy, with just under 80 percent of homicides happening during pregnancy. About half of the homicides came about as a result with a conflict with a partner or a former partner.

This is staggering, when you think about it. You have a greater risk of dying due to suicide or homicide than you do due to preeclampsia, for example.

The study raises anew the need for doctors to give at least some attention to mental health care during and after pregnancy, as well as the need for partners to be involved in family counseling. Unlike death from preeclampsia, for example, these deaths can be prevented.

If you’re showing signs of depression during or after pregnancy, you need to ask your doctor for help. If your partner or a former partner is making threats or acting violently, you owe it to your baby to turn him in to the police. You wouldn’t ignore a health problem that could harm your baby, so you can’t ignore these kinds of problems, either.

So, what do you think? What should be done to raise awareness of the risk to pregnant women and postpartum women of violent death?


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