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Mental health is neglected in maternal “near miss” research

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: (Published 31 January 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:e069486
  1. Katherine Adlington, academic clinical fellow in translational psychiatry,
  2. Abigail Easter, senior lecturer in maternal and newborn health,
  3. Hannah Galloway, person with lived experience,
  4. Louise M Howard, professor in women’s mental health
  1. King’s College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: K Adlington katherine.adlington{at}

This failure costs lives and must be tackled

Maternal deaths are devastating. The contribution of mental health problems to morbidity and mortality in the perinatal period (the period during pregnancy and the first postpartum year) is critical but often overlooked. In the UK, almost a quarter of all maternal perinatal deaths are related to mental health, and 33% of women who die are known to have pre-existing mental health problems (63 of 191 during 2017-19).1 Suicide is the leading obstetric related cause of maternal death in the postpartum period and one of the leading causes during pregnancy, after thrombosis and thromboembolism. Overall, 62 women died by suicide in the UK and Ireland during the perinatal period in 2017-19, a rate of 2.64 per 100 000 maternities.1

Perinatal deaths related to substance misuse are nearly as common as suicide (2.47 deaths per 100 000 maternities) and also occur more often postpartum than during pregnancy.1 In the UK, 86% of maternal perinatal deaths related to substance misuse occur between six weeks and one year after the end of pregnancy—after maternity …

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