Prolonged Suicide Risks for Women With Perinatal Depression, Studies Reveal

by Ella

New research based on an analysis of Sweden’s national medical registries spanning from 2001 to 2017 has revealed alarming insights into the enduring consequences of perinatal depression for women. The studies, comparing 86,551 women with perinatal depression to 865,510 without, underscore the profound impact of depression during or after pregnancy on suicide risks, with implications extending up to 18 years.


Study Findings:

1. Increased Suicide Risk:


Published in JAMA Network Open, one study reveals that women with perinatal depression face three times the risk of suicidal behavior.


The heightened risks peak in the year following diagnosis but persist over time, with a twofold increase in suicide risks even years later compared to women without the disorder.


2. Elevated Mortality Risk:

A separate study published in BMJ emphasizes that women with perinatal depression are over six times more likely to die by suicide compared to those without this diagnosis.

Although the number of suicides is relatively small, it accounts for a significant proportion (28.5%) of deaths among women diagnosed with perinatal depression.

3. Role of Depression vs. Genetics:

Researchers compared over 20,000 women with perinatal depression to their biological sisters without the disorder, finding that sisters with perinatal depression had a threefold increase in suicidal behavior risk.

This suggests that depression plays a more substantial role in outcomes than genetics or childhood environment.

Key Considerations:

1. Demographic Factors:

Women with perinatal depression, averaging an age of 31, were more likely to live alone, have lower income, less formal education, recent smoking habits, and no prior childbirth experience.

The studies reveal that regardless of other mental health problems or socio-economic factors, perinatal depression heightens the risk of suicidal behavior and death.

2. Treatment and Therapy:

The studies classified women as having perinatal depression if diagnosed by doctors or prescribed antidepressants during pregnancy or the subsequent year.

The role of treatment and therapy in mitigating these risks requires further understanding, highlighting the need for vigilant clinical monitoring and timely intervention.

Implications and Future Considerations:

Perinatal depression, estimated to affect 10 to 20 percent of women during or after pregnancy, remains a complex and underexplored area. The studies underscore the pressing need for comprehensive research, considering factors like domestic violence or alcohol consumption, and emphasize the importance of tailored clinical monitoring to prevent devastating outcomes in this vulnerable population.

While shedding light on the long-term implications of perinatal depression, the studies acknowledge the need for continued research to fully comprehend the intricacies of this condition. As perinatal depression continues to be a significant public health concern, the studies advocate for increased awareness, intervention, and support, especially in the context of the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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