Background: Only few studies have been carried out on the relationship between pregnancy and deaths from external causes.
Methods: Information on deaths from external causes among women aged 15-49 years in Finland in 1987-2000 (n = 5299) was linked to three national health registers to identify pregnancy-associated deaths (n = 212).
Results: The mortality rate for women during pregnancy and within 1 year of pregnancy termination from external causes was lower than mortality from external causes among non-pregnant women (relative risk 0.79; 95% confidence interval 0.69-0.91). Owing to elevated suicide and homicide rates, however, an increased risk was observed for women after abortions, especially in the age group of 15-24 years.
Conclusions: The low rate of deaths from external causes suggests the protective effect of childbirth, but the elevated risk after a terminated pregnancy needs to be recognized in the provision of health care and social services.