Risk Factors Associated With Postpartum Suicide

As presented at the Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidality in Washington and printed in the August 2008 issue American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers (Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine) studied early predictors of postpartum suicide and report that a history of psychiatric disorders/hospitalization and substance abuse are strong predictors.

“Women with a history of substance abuse were six times as likely to attempt suicide, while psychiatric hospitalization and substance abuse together increased the risk by 11 times.”

Clinicians note:

“One implication of this study is that screening for past history of psychiatric and substance use diagnoses as part of routine prenatal care may be a means of identifying women at high risk of postpartum suicide attempt, although a recent review of prenatal screening for depression cited insufficient evidence to recommend screening as a way to improve outcomes.”

A recent recommendation from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggested screening for psychosocial risk factors, including depression during prenatal care. This article emphasizes the need for more careful follow-up of postpartum women with current or past psychiatric diagnoses or substance use. “

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Reference: Comtois, K., Schiff, M., Grossman, D. (2008). Psychiatric risk factors associated with postpartum suicide attempt in Washington State, 1992-2001. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology V199, Issue 2 published by Elsevier.

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