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What's The Leading Cause of Death in Pregnancy?

The answer may surprise you.

Murder and suicide.

A study published in the published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology confirms previous research: pregnant women are more likely to die from murder or suicide than several of the most common pregnancy-related medical conditions. In this new study about half of the violent deaths were related to domestic conflicts.

The study looked at data from the CDC and the Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System from the years 2003-2007; they found that 3 of every 100,000 pregnant women is murdered and about 2 of every 100,000 commit suicide. Fewer deaths resulted from pregnancy-related medical problems such as preeclampsia, hypertension, problems with the placenta or bleeding.

Researchers, and pretty much anyone looking at the results of this study, urge care-providers to put more effort into prenatal screening for domestic violence. Earlier this year research came out suggesting that prenatal screening for–and treatment of–mental health issues is highly inconsistent. In my experience midwives tend to offer a more thorough, well-rounded prenatal care with attention to both body and mind. But in general, our culture could stand to pay more attention to mental health. Depression can have ill-effects on the baby and the birth… these things are not frivolous.

But I also think these problems extend beyond the prenatal visit and into the territory of “the 99%”: We have virtually nothing in place to care for expectant and new mothers. Some unpaid maternity leave( if you’re working for a big company); a lack of consistent, affordable childcare; and no universal health care. According to a CDC report out last summer, “The United States’ rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100 the highest of any industrialized nation.” We score very poorly when it comes to our treatment of mothers and babies and a lot of this has to do with the need for a greater breadth of support than just a list of deli meats to avoid and urine tests.

About this most recent study, Linda Chambliss, a maternal fetal medicine expert, told Reuters, “I think that there’s still an under-appreciation of the risk and probably less screening than should be done. Even if the numbers are relatively small, you’re talking about something that’s preventable.”

Does your doctor or midwife bring up mental health or personal relationships in prenatal visits? Do you feel comfortable talking to him or her about such things?

 

photo: MestreechCity/Flckr

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