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Link found between domestic violence and post-natal depression

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Summary of story from the Daily Telegraph, June 22, 2011

Women who suffer domestic violence during pregnancy are much more likely to experience post-natal depression, a new study by UK scientists has found.

Women who suffered emotional or physical abuse while pregnant are two-and-a-half times more likely to have depressive symptoms when the child was eight weeks old (25 per cent), compared with those who had not (10 per cent)

Researchers from King’s College University’s Institute of Psychiatry analysed results from 13,617 women who were asked their experiences of domestic abuse and assessed for post-natal depression.

The results estimated that, by the time they were 18 weeks’ pregnant, 6 per cent had experienced emotional cruelty and 2 per cent physical cruelty.

Louise Howard, professor of women’s mental health, said: “This strong link between antenatal and postnatal violence should help health workers identify future problems.

“Pregnancy is a time when women will come into frequent contact with health professionals and therefore are more likely to talk about domestic violence being suffered and psychiatric symptoms.”

The study is published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Professor Philip Steer, the journal’s editor-in-chief, added: “This is an important study as it highlights the issue of domestic violence which was also highlighted in the recent UK confidential enquiry into maternal deaths.

“Antenatal domestic violence has been shown to lead to various other problems such as postnatal violence, depression and child behavioural problems.

“It is therefore essential that more is done to help women at an early stage and provide them with the support they need to ensure the future health of the baby.”

  1. what is really sad is that even with this more frequent contact with health professionals many women don’t speak up about the violence they are suffering when they are pregnant because of the stigma of shame that is attached to the whole concept of domestic violence. Women need to be told it is not their fault over and over again until they get enough confidence to speak up about what is happening to them.

    A domestic abuse survivor
    Lisa Oliver

  2. Jane Osmond says:

    This is interesting: a friend of mine has just finished her dissertation on this very subject, and she found that Lisa’s comment is very true; also that many women are never left alone by their abusers and so could not disclose even if they wanted to. Thank you for sharing this Lisa.

  3. Katrina Wilson says:

    Community Midwives are in an optimum position to develop a relationship with women where by trust and understanding can be developed.All pregnant women must be seen alone at least 2 times so that the topic of abuse can be discussed in a safe private environment.The media can help also by reiterating that abuse is unacceptable and that it is never the abused persons fault.Pregnancy is a special time and can actually make abused women want to change the abuse toward them, to protect their baby,so midwives must be updated with help available in the areas they work.We must never forget that it is not just male partners that abuse,female
    partners,fathers,mothers,siblings can and do abuse.Women who don’t have English as a first language are vulnerable and professional interpreters away from the women’s community must be used…relatives must never be used as they could be involved with the abuse or let it slip to the abuser.However interpreters and midwives time costs money ,but abuse affects the lives of mothers and babies and can even cost them their lives.

    • Jane Osmond says:

      Thank you for your comment Katrina. This seems to be a problem that is shrouded in secrecy – it would be interesting to hear from any mothers, or would be mothers, if they have experienced abuse in pregnancy and if they asked for and got any help.

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