Suicidal Thoughts During Pregnancy and Postpartum

During pregnancy and postpartum, suicidal thoughts may appear in the mother. In this article, we'll tell you more about this.
Suicidal Thoughts During Pregnancy and Postpartum
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 03 February, 2023

During pregnancy and postpartum, women are more psychologically vulnerable and may even experience suicidal thoughts. This increases the frequency of mental illness during this period. Hence the importance of creating programs that help to identify this problem early to avoid suffering in mothers.

It’s very important that all professionals in contact with pregnant women have training on these thoughts or behaviors. As it’s a stage in which the woman is under continuous medical control, they can detect certain warning signs in order to intervene early.

Why are pregnancy and postpartum periods sensitive to suicidal thoughts?

During pregnancy and postpartum, women are more vulnerable at a psychological level. Factors such as hormonal changes, the transformation of the body, doubts, fatigue, fear, stress, new responsibilities, and continuous changes in mood play a key role.

According to psychologist Susana Al-Halabi, in her article Suicidal behavior and the perinatal period, the prevalence of suicidal ideation increases during pregnancy. Both depression and suicide are topics that are avoided during these stages, as they’re supposed to be the happiest for women.

This mental health expert focuses on two aspects:

  1. Making society and health professionals aware of this issue. That is, of the relationship between suicide and motherhood.
  2. Working with preventive programs throughout this period. This way, it will be possible to detect signs and signals that may indicate suicidal thoughts or ideas.
A stressed mother holding a newborn.
During pregnancy and the postpartum period, women are more vulnerable psychologically. In addition, suicidal thoughts may be increased by other previous risk factors, such as anxiety or depression.

People with a history of trauma or mental illness are at higher risk

Women who have a previous history of depression may be at higher risk for suicidal thoughts. However, there are also cases in which there’s no history of mental illness. In turn, they appear frequently in women who didn’t have a planned pregnancy or who’ve had traumatic experiences. However, this doesn’t mean that healthy women are exempt from having these types of thoughts.

How can we help a woman with depression during pregnancy or postpartum?

Not all women are able to admit that they have this problem or ask for help. Sometimes they don’t do so out of fear of being misunderstood, rejected, judged, or for other reasons. For this reason, healthcare professionals have to treat the mother’s physical health, but also observe her mental or emotional health status.

Another aspect that should be taken into account is that the mother’s entire environment should be attentive to observe any signs or signals that indicate depression or thoughts of self-harm. It’s essential for the family to support the woman, both physically and emotionally. For example, they can help her with the care of the baby, encourage her to express her feelings, or show her understanding, among others. Of course, don’t forget to ask for professional help if the mother is in this state, especially if you detect suicidal thoughts or a desire to carry them out.

A woman sitting on the floor in the dark.
Accompanying the woman and seeking professional help immediately upon warning signs or signals is essential to seek a solution as early as possible.

Regarding suicidal thoughts during pregnancy and postpartum…

Pregnancy and postpartum are complicated periods that can affect the mental health of the mother, who may even have suicidal thoughts. For this reason, it’s very important that we become aware of this reality that affects more women than we think. Not judging mothers for feeling this way, helping them, and being aware of the signs that may indicate that they’re in this situation are key to being able to intervene quickly.

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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.