Objective: This study examines whether unintended pregnancy is associated with physical abuse of women occurring around the time of pregnancy, independent of other factors.
Methods: In 1996-1997, state-specific population-based data were obtained from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) from 39,348 women in 14 states who had delivered a live-born infant within the previous 2-6 months. The study questionnaire asked about maternal behaviors and characteristics around the time of pregnancy.
Results: Women who had mistimed or unwanted pregnancies reported significantly higher levels of abuse at any time during the 12 months before conception or during pregnancy (12.6% and 15.3%, respectively) compared with those with intended pregnancies (5.3%). Higher rates of abuse were reported by women who were younger, Black, unmarried, less educated, on Medicaid, living in crowded conditions, entering prenatal care late, or smoking during the third trimester. Overall, women with unintended pregnancies had 2.5 times the risk of experiencing physical abuse compared with those whose pregnancies were intended. This association was modified by maternal characteristics, the association was strongest among women who were older, more educated, White, married, not on Medicaid, not living in crowded conditions, receiving first trimester prenatal care, or nonsmoking during the third trimester.
Conclusions: Women with unintended pregnancies are at increased risk of physical abuse around the time of pregnancy compared with women whose pregnancies are intended. Prenatal care can provide an important point of contact where women can be screened for violence and referred to services that can assist them.