Self-Harm Is Leading Cause Of Pregnancy-Related Deaths

According to a study published online on November 8, 2016 in Obstetrics and Gynecology, self-harm was the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in Colorado between 2004 and 2012. It surpassed car accidents, medical conditions, and homicide as the cause of death, researchers said.

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Linked To Suicide And Drug Overdose

Around 63 women died of suicide or a drug overdose in Colorado.  The most common drug detected were prescription opioid painkillers, which include medications such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone plus acetaminophen (Vicodin).

Overall, the pregnancy-related death ratio was 34.4 (95% confidence interval [CI], 29.9 - 39.3) per 100,000 live births. The mortality ratio per 100,000 live births from accidental overdoses was 5.0 (95% CI, 3.4 - 7.2) per 100,000 live births and that from suicide was 4.6 (95% CI, 3.0 - 6.6).

Maternal Mental Health Important For Expectant Mothers

Maternal mental health should be looked closely into.  Dr. Richard Silver is chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at NorthShore University Health System in Chicago said: "We think women should be screened for depression at multiple points, during and after pregnancy." Ten of the deceased mothers who have been reported to do self-harm had been previously diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, while previous psychiatric diagnoses were reported in 32 and prior suicide attempts in 6.   Women need to have access to treatment, not only medication, but also behavioural therapy.

Torri D. Metz, MD, MS, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Colorado Denver and a high-risk obstetrician at Denver Health Medical Center said: "We were most struck by the number of women who discontinued psychiatric medications during pregnancy either on their own or at the recommendation of their obstetric care provider.

This speaks to the importance of having an informed discussion regarding the use of psychiatric medications and more education about the increasing volume of data demonstrating that many psychiatric medications, and specifically antidepressants, are safe to use in pregnancy."

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