Pregnancy-associated homicide and suicide in 37 US states with enhanced pregnancy surveillance

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Pregnant and postpartum women may be at increased risk of violent death including homicide and suicide relative to nonpregnant women, but US national data have not been reported since the implementation of enhanced mortality surveillance.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective of the study was to estimate homicide and suicide ratios among women who are pregnant or postpartum and to compare their risk of violent death with nonpregnant/nonpostpartum women.

STUDY DESIGN:

Death certificates (n = 465,097) from US states with enhanced pregnancy mortality surveillance from 2005 through 2010 were used to compare mortality among 4 groups of women aged 10–54 years: pregnant, early postpartum (pregnant within 42 days of death), late postpartum (pregnant within 43 days to 1 year of death), and nonpregnant/nonpostpartum. We estimated pregnancy-associated mortality ratios and compared with nonpregnant/nonpostpartum mortality ratios to identify differences in risk after adjusting for potential levels of pregnancy misclassification as reported in the literature.

RESULTS:

Pregnancy-associated homicide victims were most frequently young, black, and undereducated, whereas pregnancy-associated suicide occurred most frequently among older white women. After adjustments, pregnancy-associated homicide risk ranged from 2.2 to 6.2 per 100,000 live births, depending on the degree of misclassification estimated, compared with 2.5–2.6 per 100,000 nonpregnant/nonpostpartum women aged 10–54 years. Pregnancy-associated suicide risk ranged from 1.6–4.5 per 100,000 live births after adjustments compared with 5.3–5.5 per 100,000 women aged 10–54 years among nonpregnant/nonpostpartum women. Assuming the most conservative published estimate of misclassification, the risk of homicide among pregnant/postpartum women was 1.84 times that of nonpregnant/nonpostpartum women (95% confidence interval, 1.71–1.98), whereas risk of suicide was decreased (relative risk, 0.62, 95% confidence interval, 0.57–0.68).

CONCLUSION:

Pregnancy and postpartum appear to be times of increased risk for homicide and decreased risk for suicide among women in the United States.

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