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Intimate partner violence and pregnancy: How midwives can listen to silenced women

02 June 2015
10 min read
Volume 23 · Issue 6


Intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy is a challenging professional issue for midwives, and is associated with serious health consequences for the woman and her baby including significant long-term physical, psychological and social ramifications. One in four women will experience IPV in their lifetime and midwives have an important role in the screening, care and management of pregnant women who may be experiencing IPV. Antenatal screening for IPV is recommended for all women, regardless of presence of risk factors or indicators of abuse.

Domestic violence towards pregnant women is both a serious public health and human rights concern. Intimate partner violence (IPV) has been defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners (Williams et al, 2013). IPV describes the incidence of abuse from a current or previous spouse; and includes both heterosexual and same sex couples (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). IPV can present in varying forms of abuse including physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, economic and social. During pregnancy, IPV is of particular concern, because it can result in physical, psychological and gynaecological health conditions; and is associated with causing serious complications during pregnancy and adverse outcomes for the baby. There is increasing evidence to suggest that women are at increased vulnerability of IPV during pregnancy and 1 year post-birth (Van Parys et al, 2014). Therefore, midwives have an important role in the screening, detection and the management of women experiencing IPV during pregnancy.

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