Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Pregnant teenagers 'suicide risk'

Teenage girls are at increased risk of suicide if they are pregnant, a leading psychiatrist has warned

Teenage girls are at increased risk of suicide if they are pregnant, a leading psychiatrist has warned.

Veronica O'Keane, a consultant at Tallaght Hospital, argued that new laws on abortion were needed to save the lives of women believed to be a suicide risk.

She said while it was rare for a woman to take her own life during pregnancy, suicide after birth is the leading cause of maternal death overall.

"Adolescents are at a huge increased risk of committing suicide if they are pregnant. It's a leading cause of death in pregnancy and it's also rare," Prof O'Keane said.

"The reason it's rare is because all deaths in pregnancy are rare. Suicide post-partum is the leading cause of death overall."

According to Maternal Death Enquiry (MDE) in Ireland, funded by the Health Service Executive, Ireland has a maternal death rate of eight per 100,000 pregnancies for 2009 and 2010, the most recent years figures are available for.

The MDE report found two deaths by suicide but it also includes indirect and coincidental deaths during pregnancies such as cancer or road accidents in its figures.

The maternal death rate as previously reported by the Central Statistics Office was four in 100,000.

Prof O'Keane told a special Oireachtas health committee that most women who travel from Ireland to the United Kingdom for an abortion do so for mental health reasons.

She said there was therefore a clear need to legislate for abortion when a woman's life is in danger - including where there is a threat of suicide.

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