Violence during pregnancy by intimate partner increases risk of Postnatal Depression

A study included in an early online publication of The Lancet examines the correlation of partner violence against women during pregnancy and the effect this may have on postpartum mental health.

The study took place in Brazil and included women from ages 18-49 years old. 1133 pregnant women were eligible for the study with 1045 included in the analysis. Of those 1045, 270 had postnatal depression. The most common form of partner violence? Psychological. “Women reporting the highest frequency of psychological violence were more likely to have postnatal depression even after adjustment.” while “Women who reported physical or sexual violence in pregnancy were more likely to develop postnatal depression but this association was substantially reduced after adjustment for psychological violence and confounding factors.”

The importance of this study may shift attention to psychological violence and abuse during pregnancy as an increased risk factor for postnatal depression. Physical and sexual violence still warrants attention.

Growing up, we all heard the phrase “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.” According to this study, words may be even more harmful. The true danger here is that Psychological abuse is often a precursor to physical or sexual violence.

Another recent study also found that “Even After Leaving Abuser, Moms Mental Health Declines.” A mother’s level of depression and anxiety were still high at least two years after escaping an abusive relationship. This research study comes from Ohio State University and included data from 2400 women who were married to, or living with the father of their child at the end of the first year of a three year period. They were broken down into three groups. The women participating were all nearly low income, minority, first time moms and likely experiencing additional stresses. Women who stayed or left a relationship showed higher levels of anxiety and depression, meaning (psychologically) they were no better off than women who stayed. That said, the researchers DID find that “abused mothers who had more social support did better after the end of their relationship than those with less help from family and friend.”

Lesson learned here? Reach out for support. Don’t settle for abuse. You are better than that. You deserve better. Your child deserves better.

If you are an abused mom/woman, you can start by calling a Domestic Violence Hotline. Start here. Start now. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website for help. You are not alone.


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