Original Research

Perinatal suicidality: Risk factors in South African women with mental illness

Elsa du Toit, Dana Niehaus, Esme Jordaan, Liezl Koen, Roxane Jones, Jukka Leppanen
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 26 | a1412 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v26i0.1412 | © 2020 Elsa du Toit, Dana Niehaus, Esme Jordaan, Liezl Koen, Roxane Jones, Jukka Leppanen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 May 2019 | Published: 24 August 2020

About the author(s)

Elsa du Toit, Maternal Mental Health Clinic, Stikland Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Panorama Healthcare Psychiatry, Panorama Medical Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
Dana Niehaus, Maternal Mental Health Clinic, Stikland Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Esme Jordaan, Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa, South Africa; and, Department of Statistics and Population Studies, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Liezl Koen, Maternal Mental Health Clinic, Stikland Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Roxane Jones, Maternal Mental Health Clinic, Stikland Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa; and, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Jukka Leppanen, Tampere Center for Child Health Research, University of Tampere School of Medicine, Tampere, Finland


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Abstract

Background: Maternal Mortality is a global health concern. The lack of suicide data, particularly in low and middle income countries, is concerning and needs to be addressed.

Aim: This study assessed suicidality and associated factors during pregnancy and the postpartum period amongst women with known psychiatric diagnoses.

Setting: The study sample included pregnant South African women over the age of 18 years with a psychiatric disorder who presented at two maternal mental health clinics.

Method: Suicidality was assessed by means of psychiatric interviews – the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview and the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale.

Results: The results revealed that women were at a higher risk of experiencing suicidality if they had attempted suicide before, presented at a later gestation for psychiatric care or were employed. It was also clear that multiple assessments, carried out by means of clinical interviews and various scales, were necessary to screen suicidality successfully in pregnant women diagnosed with psychiatric illness.

Conclusion: The results confirmed the view of the World Health Organization that in order to promote mental health and well-being, women’s health should be viewed contextually, not in isolation. Screening for and treatment of perinatal mental illness, including suicidality, are essential if we hope to meet the maternal morbidity and mortality targets of the United Nations by 2030.


Keywords

maternal mental health, perinatal psychiatry, suicidality, maternal mortality, unplanned pregnancy

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