Self-Harm is the Leading Cause of Death Among This Group of Pregnant Women, New Moms

This is alarming: According to a new study, self-harm claims the lives of entirely too many pregnant women and new mothers. 

Postpartum Depression Photographee.eu/Shutterstock
A new study has identified "self-harm" as the leading cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers in Colorado. These results reflect an analysis of 211 maternal deaths in Colorado and used the term "self-harm" to refer to suicide and drug overdoses. These deaths outweighed deaths caused by car accidents, homicide and medical complications.

Though these results, which were published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, are only focused around statistics in a single state, there's a global factor at work here. While the study doesn't include any data about the prevalence of self-harm in other cities, postpartum depression is a very real thing. It affects more women than you might think, and its effect can be heavier and more transformative than you might imagine. The study's author points out that this new research only reinforces the idea that pregnant women should be screened for depression, and that symptoms and risk factors should be addressed. The American College Obstetricians and Gynecologists has suggested this sort of screening as well, but it's unclear how often women are actually assessed.

"Self-harm was the most common cause of pregnancy-associated mortality, with most deaths occurring in the postpartum period," the study's authors said. "A four-pronged educational and program building effort to include women, health care providers, health care systems, and both governments and organizations at the community and national levels may allow for a reduction in maternal deaths."

This is certainly a scary statistic, but it's hopefully one we can reverse with adequate screening, treatment options and community support. If you are struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm, please speak to your doctor about your options. 

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