Intended for healthcare professionals


Rising rates of perinatal suicide

BMJ 2023; 381 doi: (Published 22 May 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;381:e075414
  1. Kaat De Backer, researcher1,
  2. Claire A Wilson, psychiatrist specialist registrar23,
  3. Clare Dolman, service user lead2,
  4. Zoe Vowles, researcher1,
  5. Abigail Easter, senior lecturer1
  1. 1Department of Women and Children’s Health, School of Life Science and Medicine, King’s College London, St Thomas Hospital, London, UK
  2. 2Section of Women’s Mental Health, Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK
  3. 3South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: K De Backer kaat.de_backer{at}

Prevention should be a priority for governments and all professionals working with families

Data from the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (MBRRACE-UK) for 2018-20 show that in 2020 women were three times more likely to die from suicide in the year following childbirth than they were in 2017-19.1 Ten women died out of 674 377 giving birth in 2020 (1.48/100 000) compared with 10 out of 2 173 810 in 2017-19 (0.46/100 000). Young women and those of low socioeconomic status were most affected.

The women who died often faced multiple adversities, such as substance misuse, mental ill health, domestic violence and abuse, and the loss of their child. This increase in maternal suicide rates is in line with a general trend that pre-dated the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, in particular for teenage suicides. Disruption to specialist mental health support, reduced face-to-face contact with healthcare professionals, and increased socioeconomic vulnerability during the pandemic may account for the sharp increase in 2020.1

Perinatal suicide is …

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