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Beginnings Guides Blog

Pregnancy Guide Update: Violence & Abuse

Beginnings Pregnancy Guide (2007) says:

Abuse often starts or gets worse during pregnancy…” p3                 

Today I searched the U.S. and international literature for scientific evidence to support this statement.  Although the statement is often repeated, I found no supporting references.  The assertion seems to be based primarily on anecdotal evidence.  Little is actually known about whether pregnant women are at greater risk of abuse, and few studies have examined whether risk is likely to start, end or continue during pregnancy.

I found no studies newer than 2003.  A 2003 study analyzing PRAMS* data on 64,994 mothers in 16 states found that abuse starting in pregnancy was the least common scenario. Results confirmed findings of the 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey. These two reports seem to be the total of the evidence. Both indicate the statement is unfounded, yet it continues to be repeated with little questioning from authorities.  

A 2009 study offers a possible explanation for what appears to be an increase in violence around pregnancy, but is actually a continuation of pre-existing patterns of abuse:  abused women are twice as likely become pregnant as not-abused women.  Still no evidence to support the statement.  I will poll BG users in the April Newsletter.  Stay tuned.  If you’re not getting the Newsletter, sign up here.  Ss  

*PRAMS: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System is a population-based surveillance system of self-reported maternal behaviors and experiences occurring before, during, and shortly after a woman’s pregnancy.  Learn more: http://www.cdc.gov/prams/ 

Saltzman LE, Johnson CH, Gilbert BC & Goodwin MM. (2003). Physical abuse around the time of pregnancy: An examination of prevalence and risk factors in 16 states. Maternal and Child Health Journal 7: 31-43.

Kothari CL, Cerulli C, Marcus S & Rhodes KV. (2009). Perinatal status and help-seeking for intimate partner violence. Journal of Womens Health 18(10): 1639-46.  
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