Monday, March 11, 2024

One in Six Firearm-Related Homicides and Suicides in Women Found To Be Related to Pregnancy

About one in six intentional firearm-related deaths in women of childbearing age occur during or shortly after pregnancy, a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found.

Naima T. Joseph, M.D., M.P.H., of Boston Medical Center and colleagues analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System from 2008 to 2019. Women aged 15 to 44 years who died by suicide or homicide involving a firearm were included. The researchers defined pregnancy-associated deaths as deaths that occurred during pregnancy or within one year of childbirth.

Over the study period, there were 4,204 firearm-related homicides and deaths by suicide: 2,098 were homicides, of which 22% were associated with pregnancy; and 2,106 were deaths by suicide, of which 11% were associated with pregnancy. Women and girls who died by pregnancy-associated homicide had an average age of 22.2 years, and 54.8% were Black; the average age of those who died by pregnancy-associated suicide was 28.5 years, and 80.5% were White.

The researchers also found the following notable differences where relevant circumstances were known:

  • 83.5% of pregnancy-associated suicides occurred in a metropolitan county versus 72.8% of suicides unrelated to pregnancy.
  • 61.6% of pregnancy-associated homicides were related to ongoing conflict with or violence by a current or former partner versus 51.9% among homicides unrelated to pregnancy.
  • 4.2% of pregnancy-associated deaths by suicide occurred in women who experienced intimate partner violence within a month of death versus 1.3% of deaths by suicide that were unrelated to pregnancy.

“The findings are concerning and indicate that enhanced strategies supporting mental health treatment, effective interventions addressing interpersonal violence, and strategic public health interventions addressing firearm safety are urgently needed to prevent needless pregnancy-associated violent deaths,” Joseph and colleagues wrote. “There is concern that the current national political landscape will serve to worsen the risks of intimate partner violence for pregnant individuals both through restriction of access to abortions and limiting states’ abilities to restrict firearms.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Gun Violence Is an Underrecognized Social Determinant of Health.”

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/Josiah S)

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