With Homicide the Leading Cause of Maternal Mortality, New Research Shows a Link to Firearms and Intimate Partner Violence

January 13, 2023

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


Homicide is the leading cause of death in pregnancy and just after giving birth, and suicide rates in this period are rising, research suggests. To better understand the factors associated with these deaths, a recent study looked at 2008 to 2019 data on women ages 15 to 44 from the National Violent Death Reporting System. The analysis found guns were used in 68% of homicides and 35% of suicides among pregnant and postpartum women. It also found intimate partner violence was a factor in 71% of homicides and 45% of suicides in this population—higher percentages than in deaths that did not take place around pregnancy. According to experts, these findings highlight opportunities to intervene, such as systematic screening for intimate partner violence during perinatal doctor’s visits. “There’s been a lot of action developing standards of care for reducing cardiovascular deaths and hypertension deaths,” said Naima Joseph, study coauthor and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “We have to think about developing standards of care for reducing violent deaths as well.” Experts caution that maternal mortality rates may be underestimated, especially among some population groups, due to a lack of accurate data on pregnancy status and race and ethnicity.

Spark Extra! Learn more about preventing suicide among women.