Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence Among Intimate Partners During the Perinatal Period: A Narrative Literature Review

Front Psychiatry. 2021 Feb 9;12:601236. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.601236. eCollection 2021.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects individuals and families from all backgrounds, regardless of their ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, or religion. Pregnancy and childbirth could be a time of vulnerability to violence because of changes in physical, emotional, social, and economic demands and needs. Prevalence of IPV against women during the perinatal period is increasingly researched and documented. However, evidence on IPV prevalence among intimate partners as well as on the course of IPV over the perinatal period is scarce. The purpose of this review was to provide a narrative synthesis of the existing literature regarding the prevalence estimates of IPV among intimate partners over the perinatal period. Through this review, we also gained better insight into associated factors, as well as the various forms of IPV. Of the 766 studies assessing prevalence estimates identified, 86 were included, where 80 studies focused on unidirectional IPV (i.e., perpetrated by men against women) and six studies investigated bidirectional IPV (i.e., IPV perpetrated by both partners). Most of the included studies reported lower overall prevalence rates for unidirectional IPV postpartum (range: 2-58%) compared to pregnancy (range: 1.5-66.9%). Psychological violence was found to be the most prevalent form of violence during the entire perinatal period. Studies on bidirectional IPV mostly reported women's perpetration to be almost as high as that of their partner or even higher, yet their findings need to be interpreted with caution. In addition, our results also highlighted the associated factors of IPV among partners, in which they were assimilated into a multi-level ecological model and were analyzed through an intersectional framework. Based on our findings, IPV is found to be highly prevalent during the entire perinatal period and in populations suffering from social inequalities. Further research exploring not only the occurrence, but also the motivations and the context of the bidirectionality of IPV during the perinatal period may facilitate better understanding of the detrimental consequences on partners and their families, as well as the development of effective intervention strategies. Public health prevention approaches intervening at optimal times during the perinatal period are also needed.

Keywords: associated factors; bidirectional IPV; intimate partner violence; narrative review; perinatal period; prevalence.

Publication types

  • Review