Do You Know the Most Common Cause of Death for Expectant Mothers?

37 weeks
Creative Commons License photo credit: bradkeb

There are any number of things that can happen during pregnancy that lead to maternal death. We hear horror stories all the time about a problem with the baby that leads to this kind of disaster. It wasn’t that long ago in human history where pregnancy was somewhat dangerous to a woman; if there were pregnancy problems, her life would be greatly in danger. Something as simple as a breech baby – which can be dealt with relatively easy today – meant big trouble and even death.

Yet, do you know what the most common cause of death for pregnant women is?

It isn’t problems with the baby. It’s not diabetes, blood pressure, or any maternal health issues, either.

It’s murder or suicide.

A recent study shows that expectant moms are more likely to have either murder or suicide as a cause of death than other pregnancy-related issues.

Statistically, around three of every 100,000 pregnant women or women with a baby that’s under one year of age die of murder. Two out of 100,000 end their own lives.

Compare that, for example, to the major medical causes of death. Less than two out of every 100,000 pregnant women died from the following complications combined:

  • Improper placental development
  • Pregnancy-related bleeding
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy

It’s not so much that there are more murders and suicides today than in the past; it’s that advances in health science and medical practices has greatly reduced those other risks.

What’s truly tragic about all of this is that these violent deaths can be prevented. About half of them come from a dispute with a partner.

Certain groups had higher rates of violent death. For example:

  • White and Native American women, unmarried women, and women over 40 committed suicide in greater proportions.
  • Black women, women under 24 years old, and unmarried women had the highest risks of being murdered.

This study didn’t look specifically at deaths related to postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.

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