A study appearing in this month’s issue of European Journal of Public Health reports that violence against pregnant women in developing countries is a growing public health concern. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study, led by Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH, found that between four and 29 percent of women in developing countries experience domestic violence while pregnant. The pregnant victims of abuse typically hold low socioeconomic status, have partners who demonstrate high levels of alcohol use, and/or exhibit high occurrences of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.
The study, which reviewed 213 previous papers from 1966 to 2001, more broadly estimated 18 to 67 percent of women in the developing world report physical abuse, as compared to 28 percent of women in developed countries. Because only nine previous studies measured violence during pregnancy, the researchers say more research is needed to assess domestic violence and the associated risk factors and consequences for women in developing countries. “As more data becomes available, they will further stimulate dialogue in public health circles for specific interventions, such as screening during antenatal visits, which may be the only time when women have access to health care in developing settings. It will also encourage investigators and policy makers to conduct standardized multi-country research to document evidence, as well as to test effective interventions and generate quality evidence to support advocacy,” Nasir said in a Johns Hopkins University press release.
However, violence against pregnant women is not a problem limited to women in developing countries. In a study published last month in Child Maltreatment, researcher Cara Krulewitch of the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Nursing found that between 1994 and 1998, pregnant women in Maryland were twice as likely to be murdered as non-pregnant women of the same age. Several other studies investigating death records in other states suggest that homicide, though continually underreported, is the leading cause of death among pregnant women, reported Salon.