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World Suicide Prevention Day: Spotlight on perinatal suicide

September 11, 2017

By Lindsay Jolivet

Suicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers, accounting for one in 19 perinatal deaths in Ontario, a new study has found.

Dr. Simone Vigod, a psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital and a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, was the senior author on the study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study found that on average, pregnant women committed suicide at five months of pregnancy, and postpartum women at seven months after childbirth. Rates were highest in rural and remote regions of Ontario.

“Our findings show the importance of supporting women with a history of mental illness during pregnancy and even several months after they have had their baby,” says Dr. Vigod. The research, published before World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10, highlights an important and understudied issue in Canada.

While most women who committed suicide had been in contact with a mental health professional within a year before suicide, fewer than half had met with a mental health professional within a month before suicide. Anxiety and mood disorders were the most common mental illnesses in women who committed suicide during the perinatal period, rather than psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.


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