More new moms are thinking of suicide, and society is to blame

Suicidal thoughts and self-harm during and after pregnancy are becoming more common.

More new moms are thinking of suicide, and society is to blame

[Trigger warning: This post is related to suicide and self-harm in pregnancy. For mental health resources, click here.]

For years Motherly has been advocating for better maternal mental and while some small strides have been made, there is still so much that needs to be done to prevent perinatal depression from destroying lives and families.

This week a new study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry showing how thoughts of suicide in postpartum mothers have seriously increased between 2006 and 2017.

Suicidal thoughts and self-harm during and after pregnancy are nothing to be ashamed of, but society should be ashamed of how common they are becoming.

Kara Zivin was suicidal after she gave birth a decade ago. A professor at the University of Michigan, Zivin led this new study tells The 19th, "Suicidality is something we don't think about or talk about as much, and it's a lot more common than I had realized."

It's common, mama. You're not alone. This is a crisis. Pregnant and postpartum women and people need help.


It took Zivin a decade and 11 attempts at independent research award before she got a grant to study the impact of health insurance coverage changes on health outcomes for privately-insured women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Then she expanded her research. Why did it take a decade for people to hear her?

As Motherly has previously reported, mood disorders are among the most common complications of pregnancy. Even before this new research, we were ringing the alarm bell on this issue because we saw a growing body of research suggesting suicide is a leading cause of death in other developed countries, and that maternal suicide is the United States is more common than previously thought.

It's too common. And according to Zivin's research, Black moms, lower-income moms and young moms are more at risk.

We know that Black moms are more at risk for pregnancy-related deaths and some of the systemic issues behind that are likely at play here, too. Suicidality rates for Black moms increased more from 2006 to 2017 than for any other racial group.

"As a society, we must address the significant and long-term multi-generational burden of this illness," Zivin notes. "There is no health without perinatal mental health."

We have said it over and over: Moms need support. Now.

As Motherly first reported in 2018, "according to a 2017 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suicide is on par with bleeding and high blood pressure as a leading cause of death during pregnancy and during the first year postpartum. Even for those without suicidal ideations, maternal depression has been shown to alter the experiences of mothers and their babies for years to come."

Motherly is asking healthcare providers to increase maternal mental health screening and for community leaders and lawmakers to increase support for maternal mental health. We want mothers to know that when they speak up to ask for help they will be heard. We want mothers to live.

For resources on coping with depression, click here.

If you feel you are in any danger or need immediate assistance please call 9-1-1 or your medical provider.

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