Department of Economics and Business Economics

All-Cause Mortality in Women With Severe Postpartum Psychiatric Disorders

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OBJECTIVE: The postpartum period is associated with a high risk of psychiatric episodes. The authors studied mortality in women with first-onset severe psychiatric disorders following childbirth and compared their mortality rates with those in women from the background population including other female psychiatric patients (mothers and childless women).

METHOD: In a register-based cohort study with linked information from Danish population registers, the authors identified women with first psychiatric inpatient or outpatient contacts 0-3 months postpartum. The main outcome measure was mortality rate ratios (MRRs): deaths from natural causes (diseases and medical conditions) or unnatural causes (suicides, accidents, and homicides). The cohort included 1,545,857 women representing 68,473,423 person-years at risk.

RESULTS: In total, 2,699 women had first-onset psychiatric disorders 0-3 months postpartum, and 96 of these died during follow-up. Women with postpartum psychiatric disorders had a higher MRR (3.74; 95% CI=3.06-4.57) than non-postpartum-onset mothers (MRR=2.73; 95% CI=2.67-2.79) when compared with mothers with no psychiatric history. However, childless women with psychiatric diagnoses had the highest MRR (6.15; 95% CI=5.94-6.38). Unnatural cause of death represented 40.6% of fatalities among women with postpartum psychiatric disorders, and within the first year after diagnosis, suicide risk was drastically increased (MRR=289.42; 95% CI=144.02-581.62) when compared with mothers with no psychiatric history.

CONCLUSIONS: Women with severe postpartum psychiatric disorders had increased MRRs compared with mothers without psychiatric diagnoses, and the first year after diagnosis represents a time of particularly high relative risk for suicide in this vulnerable group.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Pages (from-to)635-642
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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