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Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987–94: register linkage study

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 07 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1431
  1. Mika Gissler, researchera,
  2. Elina Hemminki, research professorb,
  3. Jouko Lonnqvist, research professorc
  1. a Unit of Statistics, Registers and Information Systems, National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES), PO Box 220, 00531 Helsinki, Finland
  2. b Health Service Research Unit, National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES)
  3. c National Public Health Institute, Department of Mental Health, Mannerheimintie 160, 00300 Helsinki
  1. Correspondence to: Mr Gissler.
  • Accepted 2 October 1996


Objective: To determine rates of suicide associated with pregnancy by the type of pregnancy.

Design: Register linkage study. Information on suicides in women of reproductive age was linked with the Finnish birth, abortion, and hospital discharge registers to find out how many women who committed suicide had had a completed pregnancy during her last year of life.

Setting: Nationwide data from Finland.

Subjects: Women who committed suicide in 1987–94.

Results: There were 73 suicides associated with pregnancy, representing 5.4% of all suicides in women in this age group. The mean annual suicide rate was 11.3 per 100 000. The suicide rate associated with birth was significantly lower (5.9) and the rates associated with miscarriage (18.1) and induced abortion (34.7) were significantly higher than in the population. The risk associated with birth was higher among teenagers and that associated with abortion was increased in all age groups. Women who had committed a suicide tended to come from lower social classes and were more likely to be unmarried than other women who had had a completed pregnancy.

Conclusions: The increased risk of suicide after an induced abortion indicates either common risk factors for both or harmful effects of induced abortion on mental health.

Key messages

  • The risk of suicide after birth is half of that among women of reproductive age in general

  • Suicides are more common after a miscarriage and especially after an induced abortion than in the general population

  • Increased risk for suicide after an abortion indi- cates either common risk factors for both or harm- ful effects of induced abortion on mental health


  • Funding National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (Stakes).

  • Conflict of interest None.

  • Accepted 2 October 1996
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