Physical abuse and low birthweight: a case-control study

Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1997 Nov;104(11):1281-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.1997.tb10975.x.


Objective: To examine whether physical abuse of a woman by her partner was associated with low birthweight.

Design: A case-control study.

Setting: Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital of Trondheim, Norway. PARTICIPANTS/SAMPLE: Eighty-six women who were delivered of a low birthweight (< 2500 g) infant (cases) and 92 women who were delivered of an infant with birthweight > or = 2500 g (controls).

Methods: An in-depth interview, either postpartum at the maternity ward or one year after delivery. Information about abuse was obtained by direct questioning and a modified version of the Conflict Tactics Scales.

Results: A total of 17% of the women had experienced abuse by a partner. While 7% had been abused by their current partner before the index pregnancy only one woman reported abuse during pregnancy. Relatively more mothers of low birthweight infants were abused (20%) compared with controls (15%), but the association was not statistically significant (OR 1.37, 95% CI 0.63-2.99). Abused women reported a higher consumption of alcohol and cigarettes in pregnancy compared with nonabused women.

Conclusion: Abuse was not found to be a risk factor for low birthweight in this study.

PIP: A case-control study conducted at the University of Trondheim, Norway, in 1992-94 investigated the association between physical or sexual abuse by a male partner and low birth weight. 86 infants who weighed less than 2500 g at delivery were enrolled as cases, while 92 infants with a birth weight of 2500 g or above served as controls. Both the conflict tactics scale and direct questioning in the postpartum period or one year after delivery were used to measure domestic violence. A total of 31 women (17%) reported physical and/or sexual abuse by a current or former partner. Abused women were significantly more likely than their nonabused counterparts to be unemployed, to smoke, and to consume alcohol during pregnancy, but there were no differences between groups in terms of education, marital status, income, mean age at delivery, or mean pre-pregnancy weight. Relatively more mothers of low-birth-weight infants were abused than controls (20% and 15%, respectively), but the association was not statistically significant (odds ratio (OR), 1.37; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.63-2.99). The association remained nonsignificant even after adjustment for potentially confounding factors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy (OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 0.62-2.98).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse*
  • Sweden / epidemiology