Intimate partner violence and pregnancy: epidemiology and impact

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Abstract

Intimate partner violence is a significant public health problem in our society, affecting women disproportionately. Intimate partner violence takes many forms, including physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression. While the scope of intimate partner violence is not fully documented, nearly 40% of women in the United States are victims of sexual violence in their lifetimes and 20% are victims of physical intimate partner violence. Other forms of intimate partner violence are likely particularly underreported. Intimate partner violence has a substantial impact on a woman's physical and mental health. Physical disorders include the direct consequences of injuries sustained after physical violence, such as fractures, lacerations and head trauma, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies as a consequence of sexual violence, and various pain disorders. Mental health impacts include an increased risk of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide. These adverse health effects are amplified in pregnancy, with an increased risk of pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth, low birthweight, and small for gestational age. In many US localities, suicide and homicide are leading causes of pregnancy-associated mortality. We herein review the issues noted previously in greater depth and introduce the basic principles of intimate partner violence prevention. We separately address current recommendations for intimate partner violence screening and the evidence surrounding effectiveness of intimate partner violence interventions.

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