WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Women appear to be significantly less likely to self-harm during pregnancy, according to a study published online March 1 in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Holly Hope, Ph.D., from University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and colleagues sought to better understand if women’s risk for self-harm changes in pregnancy and the first postpartum year. The analysis included data (1990 through 2017) from roughly 2.7 million women (aged 15 to 45 years) linked to about 1.1 million pregnancies.

The researchers identified 57,791 self-harm events and found that the risk for self-harm declined in pregnancy (2.07 versus 4.01 events/1,000 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 0.53; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.49 to 0.58) for all women except for 15- to 19-year-olds (aHR, 0.95; 95 percent CI, 0.84 to 1.07). The risk was also lower for most women with mental illness (aHR, 0.40; 95 percent CI, 0.36 to 0.44). For the postpartum period, self-harm risk peaked at six to 12 months (aHR, 1.08; 95 percent CI, 1.02 to 1.15), with at-risk groups including young women and women with a pregnancy loss or termination.

“Family planning services that reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and thus reduce miscarriages and terminations may also reduce self-harm risk, particularly among young women with mental illness,” the authors write. “Women who become pregnant later in life, perhaps when they are more financially and mentally prepared for motherhood and have a supportive partner, do not experience an increased risk of self-harm postpartum.”

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