Maternal suicide rate fails to fall - BTA calls for better mental health support

Press release: Birth Trauma Association calls for better mental healthcare for new mothers in response to news that the maternal suicide rate hasn’t fallen in 11 years
Under embargo until 00.01 Wed 7th Dec 2016.

The Birth Trauma Association (BTA) is shocked by the finding of the latest MBRRACE report* on maternal deaths in the UK, which reveals that the rate of maternal death by suicide remains unchanged in 20 years. Between 2009 and 2014, 111 pregnant women or new mothers died from suicide, making it the biggest direct cause of maternal death within the first year following childbirth.

Equally worrying is the finding that the maternal death rate has not changed between 2009 and 2014. Urgent action needs to be taken if the government is to achieve its target of reducing maternal deaths by half by 2030.
We believe the NHS must dedicate more resources to tackling mental health problems such as postnatal depression (PND) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth.

The BTA’s spokesperson, Kim Thomas, said: “One in five women develop mental illness while pregnant or in the year following birth. While we welcome NHS England’s decision to open 20 new specialist centres to help women with mental health problems related to childbirth, we think much more resource is needed to tackle the problem. It’s not just about improving mental health care after birth, though that is important. We know from our members that their mental health problems derive, in many cases, from poor care during labour and birth. A greater concern for safety, a woman-centred approach to care and improved team working between midwives and obstetricians could all help to prevent mental health problems developing after birth.”

We are also very concerned that a large number of women (up to 100 times as many as those who die) have severe pregnancy complications that can leave them with lifelong disability. We agree wholeheartedly with the report that we can “learn lessons for future care from investigating women with severe morbidity as well as maternal deaths.”
Cardiac disease remains the leading cause of indirect death and is the leading cause of death overall. It is important that health care professionals and the public understand the warning signs. For instance, breathlessness when lying down is not normal and severe chest pain must never be ignored.
Cutting the rates of suicide, morbidity and overall mortality are not impossible goals. The report shows that good, pre-emptive care has reduced the death rate from pre-eclampsia to one in a million women. Extending the quality of care to other aspects of pregnancy and birth can help reduce deaths and disability still further.

* The MBRRACE_UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths Report 2016: Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care
For more information, contact Kim Thomas, BTA press officer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 075 1069 7987 or Maureen Treadwell, BTA research officer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 01264 860380.
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