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Matern Child Health J. 2011 Jul;15(5):660-9. doi: 10.1007/s10995-010-0623-6.

Are pregnant and postpartum women: at increased risk for violent death? Suicide and homicide findings from North Carolina.

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Department of Maternal and Child Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-4645, USA.


The purpose of this study is to estimate rates of suicide and homicide death among pregnant, postpartum and non-pregnant/non-postpartum women ages 14-44, and to determine comparative rates of violent death for pregnant and/or postpartum women compared to non-pregnant/non-postpartum women. North Carolina surveillance and vital statistics data from 2004 to 2006 were used to examine whether pregnant or postpartum women have higher (or lower) rates of suicide and homicide compared to other reproductive-aged women. The suicide rate for pregnant women was 27% of the rate for non-pregnant/non-postpartum women (rate ratio= 0.27, 95% CI = 0.11-0.66), and the suicide rate for postpartum women was 54% of the rate for non-pregnant/non-postpartum women (rate ratio = 0.54, 95% CI = 0.31-0.95). Homicide rates also were lower for pregnant and postpartum women, with the homicide rate for pregnant women being 73% of the rate for non-pregnant/non-postpartum women (rate ratio = 0.73, 95% CI = 0.39-1.37), and the homicide rate for postpartum women being half the rate for non-pregnant/non-postpartum women (rate ratio = 0.50, 95% CI = 0.26-0.98). Although pregnant and postpartum women are at risk for homicide and suicide death, the highest risk group is non-pregnant/non-postpartum women. Violence prevention efforts should target all women of reproductive age, and pay particular attention to non-pregnant/non-postpartum women, who may have less access to health care services than pregnant and postpartum women.

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