Strong Link Found Between Postpartum Depression and Suicide Risk

Women with postpartum depression or psychosis may be at an increased risk of attempting suicide.

Trine Munk-Olsen, PhD,  a senior researcher at Aarhus University, Denmark, and colleagues, examined data from more than one and a half million Danish women between 1970 and 2011. Women with postpartum psychiatric disorders, such as depression or psychosis, were identified.

Mothers with postpartum depression had a four times higher risk of death from natural or unnatural causes than mothers without such mental illnesses, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Also, mothers with postpartum disorders have almost the same mortality rate as mothers with psychiatric illnesses that are not related to childbirth.

However, even compared with mothers with mental illnesses not related to giving birth, mothers with postpartum disorders are more likely to commit suicide during the first 12 months after giving birth. While the high suicide risk among mothers with postpartum psychiatric disorders has been previously determined, the study is the first to compare that to other categories of women.

“The general belief is that a new mother doesn’t take her own life, and that she ought to be enjoying motherhood, but the reality isn’t always like that,” Munk-Olsen said in a statement. “We think it’s important that women with postpartum psychiatric disorders are properly diagnosed and get the treatment they need, which possibly can prevent that they commit suicide.”


Munk-Olsen T, et al. All-Cause Mortality in Women With Severe Postpartum Psychiatric Disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2016; doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14121510.