Fear of an intimate partner and women's health in early pregnancy: findings from the Maternal Health Study

Birth. 2008 Dec;35(4):293-302. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2008.00256.x.


Background: Intimate partner violence affects 1 in 4 women at some stage in their lives. Exposure to violence has short- and long-term consequences for women themselves and their children. The objective of this study was to examine associations between fear of an intimate partner and maternal physical and psychological morbidity in early pregnancy.

Method: This paper reports baseline measures from a prospective pregnancy cohort study of 1,507 nulliparous women recruited at six public hospitals in Melbourne, Australia.

Results: The study showed that 18.7 percent (280/1,497) of women reported being afraid of an intimate partner at some stage in their lives; 3.1 percent (47/1,497) were afraid in early pregnancy and 15.6 percent (233/1,497) had been afraid before but not during the current pregnancy. Compared with women who had never been afraid of an intimate partner, women who reported being afraid of an intimate partner in early pregnancy (< or = 24 wk gestation) were at increased risk of urinary incontinence (adjusted OR = 1.64, 95% CI 0.9-3.1), fecal incontinence (adjusted OR = 3.32, 95% CI 1.2-9.2), vaginal bleeding (adjusted OR = 2.84, 95% CI 1.5-5.5), anxiety (adjusted OR = 10.22, 95% CI 5.0-21.2), and depression (adjusted OR = 4.43, 95% CI 2.1-9.7). Women afraid of an intimate partner before but not during pregnancy experienced a similar pattern of morbidity.

Conclusions: Women afraid of an intimate partner both before and during pregnancy have poorer physical and psychological health in early pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Maternal Welfare
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires