What to do if you’re having suicidal thoughts

Postpartum depression is a serious condition, and when it’s left untreated, sometimes it can lead to thoughts that life in not worth living, of death, or wanting to die. Parents who experience such thoughts can feel guilty and be hesitant to reach out, or may be 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

Talking to a familiar healthcare provider is often a great place to start. 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 going, looking and asking for help until you get the help you need. This may mean asking for referrals or talking to mental health care providers on your own, especially those who specialize in postpartum mental health.

Suicidal thoughts are dangerous, and suicidal thoughts that progress to a plan, or that the person having them can’t be sure they won’t act on 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 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 800-273-8255. Calling 911 is also always an option in any emergency situation.

The sleep factor

Problems with sleep can be a sign of new or worsening depression, and getting enough sleep – at least six hours – can be a key factor in maintaining mental health as a new parent. Reaching this goal may mean catching cat-naps and getting interrupted sleep. This isn’t usually ideal, but for new parents, it can be the best way to get the sleep needed to keep them healthy.

The bottom line

Suicidal thoughts are dangerous for the person experiencing them, and can have consequences for the whole family. Suicidal thoughts should always be closely examined, and suicidal thoughts that might be acted on should prompt immediate medical attention.

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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