Canadian Medical Journal Calls For Improved Investigations Into Deaths of New Mothers

Alarmed by the death in July of a 32-year-old woman from Winnipeg, and her two young children, an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), called for Canada to emulate the UK to not only track maternal deaths, but to also conduct formal investigations into each case.

Dr. Kirsten Patrick, deputy editor of the CMAJ, said,” Every death of a new mother to suicide should be thoroughly investigated. We may believe that maternal death due to psychiatric illness is vanishingly rare and therefore not a high priority, but a confidential inquiry into maternal deaths in the U.K., between 2000 and 2002 found mental illness was the leading cause of maternal death.”

Dr. Patrick went on to say that, “more women who had delivered a baby in the previous six months died from suicide than from any other pre-existing medical illness that might complicate pregnancy, including heart disease.”

As I’ve described in my book, “Happy Endings, New Beginnings: Navigating Postpartum Disorders,” and on this blog; at times, postpartum depression can lead to profound sadness and feelings of worthlessness. Women with these symptoms may become delusional and psychotic, and believe life would be better for all if they were dead. And in the most tragic cases, believe their babies would be better off dead, too.
Sadly, these horrible thoughts may become so overwhelming that the suffering women can’t distinguish from reality and those pernicious thoughts.

One step that can be taken, and I hope it is being done in more and more countries, is to screen for known risk factors for postpartum depression, such as a history of psychiatric illness, a recent stressful life event, domestic violence or not having a cooperative partner or family, or social supports.

Once screened, severely depressed women can be connected to the right resources. And, overwhelming evidence suggests that the earlier postnatal depression is uncovered, the less grim the outcomes.

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~ by ppdsus on September 20, 2013.

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