Objective: To assess the association between physical violence during the 12 months before delivery and maternal complications and birth outcomes.
Methods: We used population-based data from 6143 women who delivered live-born infants between 1993 and 1995 in South Carolina. Data on women's physical violence during pregnancy were based on self-reports of "partner-inflicted physical hurt and being involved in a physical fight." Outcome data included maternal antenatal hospitalizations, labor and delivery complications, low birth weights, and preterm births. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated to measure the associations between physical violence, maternal morbidity, and birth outcomes.
Results: The prevalence of physical violence was 11.1%. Among women who experienced physical violence, 54% reported having been involved in physical fights only and 46% had been hurt by husbands or partners. In the latter group, 70% also reported having been involved in fighting. Compared with those not reporting physical violence, women who did were more likely to deliver by cesarean and be hospitalized before delivery for maternal complications such as kidney infection, premature labor, and trauma due to falls or blows to the abdomen.
Conclusion: Physical violence during the 12 months before delivery is common and is associated with adverse maternal conditions. The findings support the need for research on how to screen for physical violence early in pregnancy and to prevent its consequences.