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Violence from male partners associated with serious health threats to pregnant women and newborns

Boston, MA -- In the first national study of the effects of intimate partner violence on the health of women during pregnancy and the health of newborn children, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) demonstrated that violence from male partners, both in the year prior to and during a woman's pregnancy, increases her risk of serious health complications during pregnancy. Such abuse also increases a woman's risk of delivering prematurely and that her child will be born clinically underweight and in need of intensive care. The paper appears in the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (www.medical-library.org/j_obg.htm).

Although it has been previously documented that intimate partner violence against women affects one in four U.S. women, and numerous health consequences have been associated with being a victim of such violence, this is the first study to conclusively demonstrate that physical abuse from husbands or boyfriends compromises a woman's health during pregnancy, her likelihood of carrying a child to term and the health of her newborn. Women experiencing abuse in the year prior to and/or during a recent pregnancy were 40 percent to 60 percent more likely than non-abused women to report high-blood pressure, vaginal bleeding, severe nausea, kidney or urinary tract infections and hospitalization during this pregnancy. Abused women were 37 percent more likely to deliver preterm, and children of abused women were 17 percent more likely to be born underweight. Both of these conditions pose grave health risks to newborns, and children born to abused mothers were over 30 percent more likely than other children to require intensive care upon birth.

The researchers, led by Jay Silverman, assistant professor of society, human development and health at HSPH, and senior author Anita Raj, associate professor of social and behavioral scie
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Contact: Todd Datz
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-3952
Harvard School of Public Health
28-Jun-2006


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