What to do if you’re having suicidal thoughts

Depression during pregnancy is under-diagnosed and under-treated, and, sometimes it can lead to extreme symptoms, like suicidal thoughts. Parents who experience suicidal thoughts during pregnancy can feel guilty and unwilling to reach out, or afraid of losing their babies. However, people who are having suicidal thoughts need help and support, and the best way to start to receive that support is to be open about the problem.

Responding to suicidal thoughts

Suicidal thoughts during pregnancy are dangerous, and should be treated as a medical emergency. This means immediately contacting a healthcare provider, suicide hotline, or your local emergency services number. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can reach the suicide prevention hotline at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 800-273-8255. Calling 911 is always an option in any emergency situation.

If you’re feeling like you can’t contact a provider or call emergency services, then tell a close family member or friend who can contact a provider for you or take you to the emergency department at your local hospital.

Talking to a familiar healthcare provider is often a great place to start, but when it comes to serious medical and mental health concerns like suicidal thoughts, if talking to your primary care provider or most commonly visited doctor doesn’t feel like it effectively connects you to the help you need, it’s important to keep asking for help until you get what you need.

The sleep factor

Unsurprisingly, the biggest risk factor for suicidal thoughts is depression, which is why it’s so important for depression to be treated during pregnancy. Another risk factor for suicidal thoughts during pregnancy is poor sleep, and problems with sleep can be a sign of new or worsening depression. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can be a way to fight back against depression. Although this is difficult to do during pregnancy, talking to your healthcare provider about different strategies can be helpful. Additionally reaching out to family and friends to ask them for help is important so they are aware of how you’re feeling. Loved ones can help you get the rest you need, and it’s also important for them to know to reach out to a healthcare provider in the case of an emergency.

The bottom line

Suicidal thoughts during pregnancy can occur as a part of perinatal depression. Suicidal thoughts are dangerous to both parent and baby, and should prompt immediate medical attention. Struggling with suicidal thoughts is never a sign that a new mom doesn’t love her baby, or that she won’t be a great parent – it’s just a sign that she needs help to get there! Getting that help as soon as possible is vitally important for both parents and babies.

Read more
  • B. Gelaye, S. Kajeepeta, M.A. Williams. “Suicidal ideation in pregnancy: an epidemiologic review.” Archives of Women’s Mental Health. October 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27324912.
  • B. Gelaye, et al. “Poor sleep quality, antepartum depression and suicidal ideation among pregnant women.” Journal of Affective Disorders. 209: 195-200. February 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27930912.
  • Jennifer L. Melville, et al. “Depressive disorders during pregnancy.” Obstetrics & Gynecology. 116(5): 1064-1070. November 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068619/.
  • Karen M. Tabb, et al. “Views and experiences of suicidal ideation during pregnancy and the postpartum: findings from findings from maternal care clinic patients.” Women’s Health. 53(5): July 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3725637/.
  • “Depression in pregnancy ‘risk to future mental health.”” BBC. BBC, 11 November 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-20265786.
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