Mental health, substance use and intimate partner problems among pregnant and postpartum suicide victims in the National Violent Death Reporting System

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. Mar-Apr 2012;34(2):139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2011.09.017. Epub 2011 Nov 4.


Objectives: Suicide during pregnancy and postpartum is a tragic event for the victim and profoundly impacts the baby, the family and the community. Prior efforts to study risks for pregnancy-associated suicide have been hampered by the lack of data sources which capture pregnancy and delivery status of victims. Introduction of the United States National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) offers new insights into violent deaths by linking multiple data sources and allowing better examination of psychosocial risk factors.

Methods: The analysis used data from 17 states reporting to the NVDRS from 2003 to 2007 to evaluate suicide patterns among pregnant, postpartum, and nonpregnant or postpartum women. Demographic factors, mental health status, substance use, precipitating circumstances, intimate partner problems and suicide methods were compared among groups.

Results: The 2083 female suicide victims of reproductive age demonstrated high prevalence of existing mental health diagnosis and current depressed mood, with depressed mood significantly higher among postpartum women. Substance use and presence of other precipitating factors were high and similar among groups. Intimate partner problems were higher among pregnant and postpartum victims. Postpartum women were more likely to die via asphyxia as cause of death compared to poisoning or firearms.

Conclusions: These findings describe important mental health, substance use and intimate partner problems seen with pregnancy-associated suicide. The study highlights mental health risk factors which could potentially be targeted for intervention in this vulnerable population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Suicide / trends*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Violence / trends
  • Young Adult