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Maternal Suicide: Mom’s Are Not Immune

September marks Suicide Awareness Month across the globe. This is an especially important and vulnerable topic to address because the effects of suicide are far reaching. It touches many lives. I would like to take this time to highlight a segment of suicide awareness: Maternal Suicide. The organization, 2020 Mom, sponsors an annual Maternal Suicide Awareness Campaign. This year the campaign will take place September 9 – 13, 2019. If you are interested in supporting this cause, please visit

What is Maternal Suicide?

Suicide is one of the leading causes of maternal death in the United States, and is the leading cause of death in countries such as Japan, the UK, and Ireland.  The United States currently does not require states to report maternal suicide rates. It is important to note that maternal suicide risk is not just limited to the immediate postpartum period. It can happen during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. This is a tragic concept to contemplate but it is worthwhile to delve into because awareness can save a life.

Maternal Suicide Facts

  1. Sleep disturbances significantly increase the likelihood of suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts in adults and increases thoughts of self-harm in depressed postpartum moms.

  2. Increased symptoms of anxiety have been linked to frequent thoughts of self-harm in depressed postpartum women. As many as 66% of postpartum women with depression have co-morbid disorders, with almost 83% being anxiety disorders.

  3. Maternal deaths by suicide often involve a violent method. This may reflect greater illness severity or higher suicidal intent in this group than in the general population. The use of violent suicide methods suggests severe depression, possibly with psychotic symptoms

  4. The severity and rapidly evolving nature of postpartum psychosis increases the risk of maternal suicide.  There is an approximately 5% suicide rate for women diagnosed with postpartum psychosis.

  5. A bipolar disorder diagnosis puts a woman at increased risk for postpartum psychosis, thus also increasing their risk for maternal suicide.

  6. Maternal suicide risk is not just limited to the immediate postpartum period. It is important to continue providing women with mental health resources and support throughout the later postpartum period.

  7. Reasons contributing to maternal suicide include (but are not limited to): stigma, potential legal repercussions that may arise from admitting to and receiving help for psychiatric problems, especially among new mothers.12

  8. The highest risk for maternal suicide occurs at 9 to 12 months postpartum.

Additional information, including sources for the noted facts may be found at

Get Help

If you or someone you know needs help:

The Postpartum Support International (PSI) warmline can be reached at 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD).  Volunteers offer encouragement, information, and treatment resources in your community. (NOTE:  Postpartum Support International is not a crisis hotline and does not handle emergencies.)

If you or someone you know is in crisis please contact:

  1. National Crisis Text Line:  Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.

  2. National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website: 1-800-273-8255 or

  3. 911 or your local emergency number

For questions or if you are seeking emotional support, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714.


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