Women face a number of risk factors during pregnancy that can potentially harm them or their unborn children. But one of the most dangerous risks is that of abuse and death at the hands of an intimate partner. In fact, research has shown that murder by a domestic partner is the leading cause of death for women during pregnancy. Although there are other risk factors, abuse remains a major concern for women and their unborn children.
To get a better idea of what factors pose the greatest risk for abuse against pregnant women, Lois James, PhD of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University recently examined 92 existing studies from developed and developing countries. She looked at well-known vulnerabilities, such as life stress, low education, unplanned pregnancy, single women, drug and alcohol abuse, socioeconomic status, and first-time pregnancies to determine which presented the greatest risk to pregnant women.
James found that the greatest risk factors for abuse during pregnancy were prior abuse with women who had previously been abused by their partners being four times more likely of being abused than those with no prior history of domestic violence. Prior abuse was followed closely by low education, being single, having an unplanned pregnancy, and being from a low socioeconomic class.
The rates of abuse by type were 8% for sexual abuse, 13.8% for physical abuse, and nearly 30% for emotional abuse. James was unsurprised to also discover that women from underdeveloped and developing countries were more likely to be victims of abuse during pregnancy than those from developed countries.
The findings of this study show that women who can least afford health care services may be the most likely to need it during pregnancy. James hopes that these results inform nurses and doctors caring for pregnant women of the urgency of attending to abuse risk factors. James added, “In a similar vein, practitioners need to be aware that pregnant women who visit the emergency room during their pregnancy may be suffering from abuse.”
James, Lois, David Brody, and Zachary Hamilton. (2013). Risk factors for domestic violence during pregnancy: A meta-analytic review. Violence and Victims 28.3 (2013): 359-80. ProQuest. Web.
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