Domestic violence during pregnancy

Pregnant woman sewing

Pregnancy can cause stress in any relationship, and it's a common trigger of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a pattern of assault and coercive behavior, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion that adults use against their partners.

Several factors suggest that risk for violence may be even higher for pregnant women with HIV infection. Women with HIV are at increased risk for violence relative to the general population, perhaps because demographic and behavioral factors associated with HIV (e.g., poverty, drug use, bartering sex) also increase a woman's exposure to violence.

In addition, some HIV-infected women may be at risk for violence when their positive serostatus is disclosed. Because a large proportion of HIV infections in women are diagnosed through routine prenatal screening, many disclosures may occur during pregnancy. Moreover, modifications of childbirth and post-delivery care to prevent perinatal transmission (e.g., additional medications, formula feeding) may make it more difficult for women who are pregnant or have recently given birth to keep their serostatus private.

The prenatal care setting, with its multiple scheduled provider contacts, presents an important opportunity for identifying and referring women at risk of domestic violence.

Violence during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight babies, and fetal injury or even death.
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