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Violence against pregnant women underreported

Published: Monday, Aug. 19 2013 11:25 a.m. MDT

Murder is second only to auto crashes in terms of traumatic deaths for women who are pregnant. Violence against pregnant women is more common than conditions they are routinely screened for, including preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

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Murder is second only to auto crashes in terms of traumatic deaths for women who are pregnant. Violence against pregnant women is more common than conditions they are routinely screened for, including preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

A 2012 study based on data from the National Violent Death Reporting System found that "pregnancy-associated homicide and suicide are important contributors to maternal mortality and confirm the need to evaluate the relationships between socio-demographic disparities and (intimate partner violence) with pregnancy-associated violent death."

Of high concern, as well, are suicides by pregnant women who are struggling in their relationships with intimate partners.

The risk is highest for African-American women and those younger than 20.

The researchers noted that deaths due to obstetrical events like heart disease, infection or excessive bleeding have gotten better over the years, while maternal death due to injury has stayed flat. Of those, homicide and suicide are "two important and potentially preventable causes of maternal injury."

Some are questioning why the media pay so little attention to the issue. It's not that the media care little about pregnancy, note some bloggers, including Kimberly Rose. In some ways, media outlets seem obsessed by pregnancy.

"Last week, OK! Magazine’s front page feature on 'Kate’s Post-Baby Weight Loss Regime'  — one day after her delivery — epitomized the insane and unhealthy expectations put upon pregnant women before and after baby. British women went understandably ballistic in response. TV presenter Katy Hill put her foot down and her shirt up to show off her post-baby bump, urging everyone to boycott the magazine using the hashtags #DontBuyOK, #bumps, #bodylove and #babyweight-gate."

After reviewing some of the studies linking homicides, suicides and some miscarriages to domestic violence, Rose wrote, "We as readers, the media, and the agencies responsible need to focus on violence and domestic abuse during pregnancy, not the size of Kim Kardashian’s butt. We are all, in essence, 'the media.' When we click on those stories, buy those magazines, and do or say nothing, we are enabling the marginalization of pregnant women and the unreal standards being purported on all pregnant women during and after birth."

Hafrún Finnbogadóttir, a researcher at Malmö University in Sweden, has studied domestic violence in pregnancy. It's an international, not just an American, issue. An article on her work in Science Daily noted her belief that having experienced violence may even directly impact a woman's labor during childbirth.

She discovered, among other things, that even when a midwife knows a woman has experienced violence, there's reluctance to report it. "Midwives need both updated knowledge and tools with regard to abused pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence. Midwives feel that they lack support and feel that they are betraying both the women and the unborn child," she told Science Daily.

An expert-advice site for pregnant women, Baby Center, notes that some women believe pregnancy will help end abuse in relationships. The article said this outcome is unlikely. "Experts say that pregnancy is more likely to have the opposite effect on an abusive partner. One in six abused women reports that her partner first abused her during pregnancy, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women report suffering abuse during pregnancy."

EMAIL: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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