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Perinatal suicide: Signs, safety and support options

Thoughts of suicide are common during pregnancy and early parenthood. You don’t need to deal with them alone though – specialist help is available.

Talking about suicide is brave.

It takes courage to admit to someone else that you’re feeling distressed or overwhelmed, and not coping as well as usual. Many expecting and new parents report feelings of isolation, shame and self-blame when they’re having thoughts of suicide. This can stop people from reaching out for support when they need it the most.

In Australia, suicide is a leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy and the first year after birth. Emerging research suggests fathers and non-birthing parents are also at increased risk of experiencing thoughts of suicide during the transition to parenthood.

PANDA is committed to having conversations about suicide prevention and risk management in the perinatal period. It’s essential that expecting and new parents can speak openly and honestly about how they’re feeling, and access effective support to help manage distressing thoughts and feelings as soon as possible.

Talking about suicide doesn’t increase the risk that someone will attempt to take their own life – but it can increase safety by reducing feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

Providing space for someone to talk openly about feeling suicidal is an opportunity for:

  • Connection
  • Reassurance
  • Safe support
  • Hope for change

Thoughts of suicide are common during pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life. On the PANDA Helpline, we provide over 40,000 counselling calls to expecting and new parents and their support people every year. We offer suicide prevention support in around 20% of those calls.

That’s 1 in 5 people needing support from PANDA to talk about suicide. Some people are experiencing thoughts of suicide themselves and reaching out for help. Other people want to know how they can support a loved one in distress.

Our Helpline counsellors are experienced and comfortable in talking about suicide. We understand that people are often nervous about sharing frightening thoughts and feelings. Our counsellors create a caring, nonjudgmental space for you to discuss your concerns.

We’ll work together with you to create a personalised mental health safe plan to help manage distress, including ways to cope with thoughts of suicide.

Mental Health Safe Plan

Helpful Information

Woman looking confused standing in a puddle
Creating a strengths-based suicide safety plan
Read More

Becoming a parent can feel overwhelming

Pregnancy and early parenthood are a time of major life change. The world as you know it may suddenly feel unfamiliar, full of unexpected events and challenges to everything from your daily routine to self-identity.

Often what we imagine parenthood to be like is very different from the actual reality of the perinatal period. It can feel difficult to adapt to and accept a pregnancy or birth that doesn’t go as planned, sleepless nights, an unsettled baby, and an emerging sense of self that is often defined by how well we think we’re coping as a parent.

The urge to hide any signs of distress from other people can be strong, but may also increase a sense of shame and psychological isolation.

It’s important to share how you’re feeling with other people.

You can choose anyone that you feel safe with, someone you trust to listen and support you. For some, that might be a family member or friend. Other people feel more comfortable talking to a health professional.

Even though life may feel overwhelming, you’re in control of who you trust with your story. Deciding to talk about suicide is an act of courage and hope for change. Allowing other people to support you increases safety for you and your baby.

Further Information


Thoughts of suicide: Active vs passive


Perinatal suicide: Risk factors


Perinatal suicide: Protective factors


Perinatal suicide: Warning signs (non-verbal)


Perinatal suicide: Warning signs (verbal)


Seeking support for yourself


Supporting someone else


Suicide support services

PANDA Learning Hub courses

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PANDA National Helpline

Find someone to talk to, Monday to Saturday.

1300 726 306

Call 000 for police and ambulance if you or someone else are in immediate danger

Talk with friends or family

Consider talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust. This might be a friend or family member. Once you starting talking you might be surprised at how many others have had similar experiences and the support they can provide you.

Talk with your doctor

Talking with your doctor can be an important step to getting the help you need. They should be able to give you non-judgemental support, assessment, diagnosis, and ongoing care and treatment. They can also refer you to specialists such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Get help now

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are feeling disorientated it’s important to get help immediately. PANDA is not a crisis service, if you need immediate support call Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7).

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Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be a reason to seek help.