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Open Access Research article

Maternal and foetal outcomes among pregnant women hospitalised due to interpersonal violence: A population based study in Western Australia, 2002-2008

Lynn B Meuleners1*, Andy H Lee2, Patti A Janssen3 and Michelle L Fraser1

Author Affiliations

1 Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre (C-MARC), School of Public Health, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, Western Australia 6845, Australia

2 School of Public Health, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, Western Australia 6845, Australia

3 Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia, 2329 West Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:70  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-70

Published: 12 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Interpersonal violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death in women under the age of 45 than other preventable health conditions, but findings concerning the effects of violence during pregnancy on both maternal and foetal health have been inconsistent.

Methods

A retrospective population-based cohort study was undertaken using linked data from the Hospital Morbidity Data Collection and the Western Australian Midwives' Notification System from 2002 to 2008. The aim was to determine the association between exposure to interpersonal violence during pregnancy and adverse maternal and foetal health outcomes at the population level.

Results

A total of 468 pregnant women were hospitalised for an incident of interpersonal violence during the study period, and 3,744 randomly selected pregnant women were included as the comparison group. The majority of violent events were perpetrated by the pregnant women's partner or spouse. Pregnant Indigenous women were over-represented accounting for 67% of all hospitalisations due to violence and their risk of experiencing adverse maternal outcomes was significantly increased compared to non-Indigenous women (adjusted odds ratio 1.53, 95% CI 1.21 to 1.95, p = 0.01). Pregnant women hospitalised for an incident of interpersonal violence sustained almost double the risk for adverse maternal complications than the non-exposed group (95% CI 1.34 to 2.18, p < 0.001). The overall risk for adverse foetal complications for pregnant women exposed to violence was increased two-fold (95% CI 1.50 to 2.76, p < 0.001).

Conclusions

The risk of adverse health outcomes for both the mother and the baby increases if a pregnant woman is hospitalised for an incident of interpersonal violence during pregnancy.