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Survey finds suicide is leading cause of maternal death in Japan

Kyodo

A total of 102 women committed suicide before and after childbirth between 2015 and 2016, making it the leading cause of maternal death in Japan, according to a recent study by a team of experts that included personnel from the National Center for Child Health and Development.

In the survey, the first of its kind to be conducted at a nationwide level, 92 committed suicide within a year of delivery. Around half of the 92 were aged 35 or older, while 65 percent had been pregnant for the first time. Many of the women belonged to households with no regular source of income.

Postnatal depression, often caused by concerns and frustrations about raising children, is said to be one possible factor behind the women’s suicides. The team that carried out the survey is calling on women to consult doctors and health care centers “not just about their physical wellbeing but also about their mental wellbeing.”

The findings also showed that, compared with other countries, the number of maternal deaths are small, but that the suicide rates are higher in Japan.

“There may be more people (committing suicide) who are not shown in the data. … It is important to support anxious pregnant women and nursing mothers as well as those struggling with postnatal depression or other mental health issues,” said Rintaro Mori, a doctor at the center.

The team analyzed the 2015-2016 population data on pregnant women and also those who had given birth within the previous 12 months. A total of 357 women died, of which 102 killed themselves. The cause of the death of the other women included cancers, diseases involving cranial nerves and bleeding.

Suicide after childbirth was seen throughout the year, the survey also showed.