Review article

Archives of Women’s Mental Health

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 77-87

First online:

Prevalence of suicidality during pregnancy and the postpartum

  • V. LindahlAffiliated withNational Institute of Mental Health
  • , J. L. PearsonAffiliated withNational Institute of Mental Health
  • , L. ColpeAffiliated withNational Institute of Mental Health

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This review examined the available prevalence estimates of suicidality (suicide deaths, attempts, and ideation including thoughts of self harm) in pregnancy and the postpartum. Studies that used defined community or clinic samples were identified through multiple electronic databases and contacts with primary authors. Definitions of and measurement of suicide deaths, intentional self-harming behavior, suicide attempts, and thoughts of death and self-harm were varied and are described with each study. While suicide deaths and attempts are lower during pregnancy and the postpartum than in the general population of women, when deaths do occur, suicides account for up to 20% of postpartum deaths. Self-harm ideation is more common than attempts or deaths, with thoughts of self-harm during pregnancy and the postpartum ranging from 5 to 14%. The risk for suicidality is significantly elevated among depressed women during the perinatal period, and suicide has been found to be the second or leading cause of death in this depressed population.

Keywords: Suicidality; postpartum; pregnancy; maternal mortality.