Sexual violence and eclampsia: analysis of data from Demographic and Health Surveys from seven low- and middle-income countries

J Glob Health. 2019 Dec;9(2):020434. doi: 10.7189/jogh.09.020434.


Background: Scientific literature has provided clear evidence of the profound impact of sexual violence on women's health, such as somatic disorders and mental adverse outcomes. However, consequences related to obstetric complications are not yet completely clarified. This study aimed to assess the association of lifetime exposure to intimate partner sexual violence with eclampsia.

Methods: We considered all the seven Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) that included data on sexual violence and on signs and symptoms suggestive of eclampsia for women of reproductive age (15-49 years). We computed unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (OR) to evaluate the risk of suggestive eclampsia by ever subjected to sexual violence. A sensitivity analysis was conducted restricting the study population to women who had their last live birth over the 12 months before the interview.

Results: Self-reported experience of sexual violence ranged from 3.7% in Mali to 9.2% in India while prevalence of women reporting signs and symptoms compatible with eclampsia ranged from 14.3% in Afghanistan to 0.7% in the Philippines. Reported sexual violence was associated with a 2-fold increased odd of signs and symptoms suggestive of eclampsia in the pooled analysis. The sensitivity analysis confirmed the strength of the association between sexual violence and eclampsia in Afghanistan and in India.

Conclusions: Women and girls in low-and-middle-income countries are at high risk of sexual violence, which may represent a risk factor for hypertensive obstetric complication. Accurate counseling by health care providers during antenatal care consultations may represent an important opportunity to prevent adverse outcomes during pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Demography
  • Developing Countries
  • Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult