A new report has highlighted for the first time an apparent rise in the suicide rate for pregnant or newly postpartum women in 2020, citing disruption to NHS services due to Covid-19 as a likely cause.
According to the review of maternal deaths by MBRRACE-UK, 1.5 women per 100,000 who gave birth died by suicide during pregnancy or in the six weeks following the end of pregnancy in 2020, which is three times the rate of 0.46 per 100,000 between 2017 and 2019.
The number of deaths by suicide within six weeks of pregnancy in 2020 was numerically small – 10 women – but this was the same as the total recorded across 2017 to 2019. This is also despite Office for National Statistics figures showing a year-on-year fall in suicides in the population overall in 2020.
In relation to the rise in suicides during pregnancy and up to a year after birth, the report states: “During the first year of the covid-19 pandemic, very rapid changes were made to health services… Mental health services were not immune from this and there was a broad spectrum of changes from teams where some staff were redeployed to other roles, through to teams that were able to operate relatively normally…
“All of this occurred on a background of a recent huge expansion in specialist perinatal mental health services."
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Source: HSJ, 11 November 2022