A new report revealed that nearly half of post-partum and antenatal suicides by women could have been prevented by better standards of health care and basic checks on their mental health.
Funded by National Health Service England, the study examined 101 cases of women in the United Kingdom and Ireland who took their life during and after their pregnancy between 2009 and 2013.
The report found that women who suffer serious mental health problems during or after pregnancy are not well-taken care of due to a lack of resources in hospitals and the failure to spot warning signs. Entitled “Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care,” the report(PDF) was compiled by MBRRACE-UK.
Researchers also found that only 15 percent of the cases they evaluated had contact with perinatal mental health services even though half of the women had a history of depression.
Professor Marian Knight, the lead author of the study, said the main problem is that women who have had symptoms of depression would present themselves at different parts of the health service.
Knight said that if someone had recognized the warning signs, the woman would have gotten the perinatal care she needed if it was available.
Still, Knight and her colleagues discovered that even if the symptoms were recognized and the women who committed suicide only became ill today, about 40 percent of them would not get any perinatal mental health care, and only about 25 percent would receive the highest standard of care.
According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, of the 236 health groups in the country, only 57 meet the national requirements for teams of specialized perinatal mental health and 96 of them have no provision at all.
“We know that suicide is a leading cause of death in new mothers in the UK. Despite this, provision of perinatal mental health services in the UK is at best patchy, and in some areas, non-existent,” said Louise Silverton, spokesperson for the Royal College of Midwives.
Meanwhile, the authors of the report urged women and their families to talk about any mental health fears. All women should also undergo basic checks about any previous mental health problems, they said. This would provide an opportunity for prevention of any potential future issues, they added.