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Intimate Partner Violence During Pregnancy: Four Things You Need to Know

 

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can be any type of violence or sexual assault along with coercive control. It’s estimated that between 4-15% of pregnant women will experience IPV and that women with unintended pregnancies are at higher risk for violence. This means that approximately 324, 000 pregnant women are abused every year. (CDC, 2010)

Intimate Partner Violence during pregnancy can cause some unique problems, but it also offers an opportunity for intervention that may not occur during other times in abusive relationships. There are four important things to know about IPV and pregnancy.

1. IPV during pregnancy may be more common than other conditions that women are routinely screened for such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and neural tube defects.  (March of Dimes, 2016) Health before, during, and after pregnancy is something that most people pay close attention to; yet, even with new guidelines from the Affordable Care Act, not all doctors screen patients for IPV.

2. Victims may not have control over their reproductive health or the ability to decide when and if they become pregnant. Reproductive coercion such as birth control sabotage, emotional coercion, and sexual assault may take the decision of when to become pregnant out of victims’ hands. It can be used by abusers as a way to make a victim stay in the relationship.

3.There is a higher rate of prenatal death, delay of prenatal care, smoking, and alcohol and drug abuse among people who are experiencing IPV. Studies have shown that abusers will attack pregnant victims in the area of the breasts and abdomen which can lead to fetal fractures, ruptures of the uterus or spleen, and hemorrhaging. (March of Dimes, 2016)

4. There is good news, too. Studies show that up to 96% of women seek some sort of prenatal care with an average of 12 visits. This can give providers the perfect opportunity to screen for IPV and offer resources. Mothers want to do what’s right for their unborn children and may see this time as a chance for a better life for herself and her child. It’s important that we educate doctors and other staff that come into contact with pregnant women on how to properly screen them.

Violence in a relationship is always a scary thing, but IPV during pregnancy puts added pressure and other dynamics into place. Proper screening can minimize risks and give victims the resources they need to stay safe.