Prevalence and evolution of intimate partner violence before and during pregnancy:a cross-sectional study


Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) before and during pregnancy is associated with a broad range of adverse health outcomes. Describing the extent and the evolution of IPV is a crucial step in developing interventions to reduce the health impact of IPV. The objectives are to study the prevalence of psychological abuse, as well as physical & sexual violence, and to provide insight into the evolution of IPV 12 months before and during pregnancy. Methods: Between June 2010 and October 2012, a cross-sectional study was conducted in 11 antenatal care clinics in Belgium. Consenting pregnant women were asked to complete a questionnaire (available in Dutch, French and English) in a separate room. Ethical clearance was obtained in all participating hospitals. Results: The overall percentage of IPV was 14.3% (95% CI: 12.7 - 16.0) 12 months before pregnancy and 10.6% (95% CI: 9.2 - 12.1) during pregnancy. Physical partner violence before as well as during pregnancy was reported by 2.5% (95% CI: 1.7 - 3.3) of the respondents (n = 1894), sexual violence by 0.9% (95% CI 0.5 - 1.4), and psychological abuse by 14.9% (95% CI: 13.3 - 16.7). Risk factors identified for IPV were being single or divorced, having a low level of education, and choosing another language than Dutch to fill out the questionnaire. The adjusted analysis showed that physical partner violence (aOR 0.35, 95% CI: 0.22 - 0.56) and psychological partner abuse (aOR 0.7, 95% CI: 0.63 - 0.79) were significantly lower during pregnancy compared to the period of 12 months before pregnancy. The difference between both time periods is greater for physical partner violence (65%) compared to psychological partner abuse (30%). The analysis of the frequency data showed a similarly significant evolution for physical partner violence and psychological partner abuse, but not for sexual violence. Conclusion: The IPV prevalence rates in our study are slightly lower than what can be found in other Western studies, but even so IPV is to be considered a prevalent problem before and during pregnancy. We found evidence, however, that physical partner violence and psychological partner abuse are significantly lower during pregnancy.

Keywords: Intimate partner violence, Abuse, Pregnancy, Prevalence, Evolution, Pattern

Authors & affiliation: 
An-Sofie Van Parys, Ellen Deschepper, Kristien Michielsen, Marleen Temmerman and Hans Verstraelen 1Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ghent University, International Centre for Reproductive Health, Belgium, De Pintelaan 185, UZP 114, 9000 Gent, Belgium. 2Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Public Health, Biostatistics Unit, Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185, 4K3, 9000 Gent, Belgium.
Published In: 
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:294
Publication date: 
Thursday, August 28, 2014