Most women suicidal in pregnancy and seeking termination will travel to UK

Perinatal psychiatrist “ regularly” sees reports of women who have killed themselves while pregnant


Most women in Ireland who are suicidal in pregnancy and seeking a termination will continue to travel to the UK, Dr Anthony McCarthy, perinatal psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital has said.

Speaking in the wake of the case of a woman who sought a termination here, but was given a Caesarean section at 25 weeks, Dr McCarthy said his first question to anyone who believed a termination was the only solution to prevent their suicide would be “why would you go through this in Ireland?”

He said the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was designed for only a very tiny number of women who are actively suicidal in pregnancy, and who believe that a termination of pregnancy is the only solution and want or have to go through that in Ireland.

“This is only for a tiny group of women. It doesn’t address women who are distressed because of rape, who maybe even have suicidal ideas because of rape,” he said.

“I have seen women with suicidal ideas who have no intention of killing themselves: it is just an indication of their level of distress; it’s not an intention.”

Dr McCarthy said he had heard suggestions from the “pro-life” side that “there is no physical illness therefore this woman should not have a termination of pregnancy”, almost as though “they do not believe that a woman would kill herself in pregnancy”.

“They are trying to save the unborn and not realising that actually what we are dealing with here is the death of the unborn and the mother, sometimes more than one unborn and the mother and sometimes the mother taking one or other children with her as well,” he said.

Dr McCarthy, who is on the Confidential Inquiry into Maternal Deaths in Ireland and the UK. said he regularly studied reports of women who killed themselves in pregnancy.

Separately, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said it will gather feedback on how the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act works in practice and will share this with the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to inform his report on the issue next year.