The Cape Winelands might officially host some of Mzansi’s wealthiest citizens, but life pretty much sucks if live in the low-income areas of Mbekweni and Paarl East. Just ask pregnant mothers…
A new study that tracked suicidal ideation and behaviour among new mothers found that one in every five women thought about taking their own lives. The reason? They experience high rates of stressors such as poverty and exposure to traumatic events.
The study findings were recently published online in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health, an international journal dedicated to female psychological health.
Researchers at the University of Cape Town collected data from the Drakenstein Child Health Study before birth and when the babies were six months old. They also assessed what factors were associated with suicidal ideation and behaviour.
Study leads to shocking results
A total of 748 women aged 18 to 35 years were evaluated by a multidisciplinary team. The rates of suicidal ideation and behaviour were high with 19.9% of the pregnant women and 22.6% of the mothers with six-month old babies having thoughts that they did not want to be alive anymore in the preceding month.
Lead author, Dr Karen Maré of UCT’s Neuroscience Institute and department of psychiatry and mental health, said: “Women who experienced the most severe suicidal ideation and behaviour were more likely to have a mental illness such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to those not experiencing any suicidal ideation and behaviour.
“Women with less severe suicidal ideation and behaviour also had more depression and PTSD, but in addition were more likely to report psychosocial stressors, such as recent intimate partner violence, food insecurity and childhood trauma.”
Maré suggested that sensitive and specific screening is needed in order to identify high risk individuals for greater support.