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9% of women have suicidal thoughts after giving birth

Researchers at Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London have found that 9% of women experience suicidal thoughts 6 weeks after they give birth.
The study looked at 4,150 women 6 weeks post delivery who were screened for postnatal depression using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). The study, published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, found that 9% reported some suicide ideation (including hardly ever), of which 4% reported that the thought of harming themselves had occurred to them sometimes or quite often.
Prof Louise Howard, lead author of the study at the IoP says: ‘This is one of the largest studies to examine suicidal thoughts in postpartum women and shows that suicidal thoughts are by no means rare.’
However, the study found that suicidal ideation does not prevent women from responding well to treatment for depression.
The 10-question EPDS is the most widely used postpartum depression screening questionnaire in the UK and has proven to be an effective screening tool.
Prof Howard adds: ‘We compared the results from the EPDS scale with another more comprehensive measure of suicidal ideation, the CIS-R. We found answering ‘yes, quite often’ to question 10 of the EPDS will usually mean there is significant suicidal ideation warranting referral of these women to their general practitioner for further assessment and treatment.’
The RESPOND trial was funded by the HTA programme. The authors are affiliated with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Mental Health Biomedical Research Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. 

Full paper: Howard L. et al. ‘The prevalence of suicidal ideation identified by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale in postpartum women in primary care: findings from the RESPOND trial’, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (August 2011) doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-57

For more information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer at the Institute of Psychiatry, email: or tel: 0207 848 5377
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