Physical abuse during pregnancy and preterm delivery

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Feb;198(2):171.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.05.015. Epub 2007 Oct 1.


Objective: This study was undertaken to assess the relationship between physical abuse during pregnancy and preterm delivery.

Study design: We conducted a hospital-based survey on physical abuse during pregnancy, which included 2660 women with consecutive live births. Women were interviewed and violence was assessed using the Abuse Assessment Screen. Data on sociodemographic, behavioral, and obstetric variables were also obtained. Mothers of preterm (<37 weeks; n = 217) were contrasted with mothers of term newborn infants (n = 2428). Logistic regression analysis was performed to estimate adjusted odds ratios.

Results: Twenty-four percent of mothers of preterm newborn infants had experienced physical abuse during pregnancy compared with 8% of mothers of term newborn infants (P < .0001). Violence was associated with preterm birth even after controlling for age, marital status, education, income, parity, planned pregnancy, antenatal care, smoking, alcohol, and illicit drugs use (odds ratio = 3.14, 95% confidence interval, 2.00-4.93).

Conclusion: Women who have had physical abuse during pregnancy present a large increase in the risk of preterm delivery, independently from a large set of sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics usually recognized as determinants of preterm birth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / epidemiology*
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / etiology
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / prevention & control
  • Portugal / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care
  • Prevalence
  • Social Class
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires