Around half of suicides by women while pregnant or after giving birth could be prevented by better standards of care, experts have said. The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths, based at the University of Oxford and partially funded by NHS England, found that women who suffer serious mental health problems during or after pregnancy are being let down by a lack of resources and failures to spot warning signs.
The researchers examined all 101 suicides by women in the UK and Ireland during pregnancy or up to one year after the end of pregnancy between 2009 and 2013 inclusive. They discovered that only 15% had contact with specialist perinatal mental health services despite the fact that half of the women who killed themselves had previously suffered from depressive illness.
Professor Marian Knight, who led the study, said: “With improvements in care we can prevent about half of the suicides in the future. The main issue for me is women had symptoms for a long time and would present themselves at different parts of the health service. They might present to A&E, they might present to a GP, so there were lots of opportunities … where if someone had recognised the symptoms that would have allowed the woman, if it was available, to get the specialist perinatal care she needed.” Guardian:Tuesday 8 December 2015