Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to a case in which pregnancy is linked to domestic violence, with increased threats on the victim’s health. Abuse against pregnant women includes emotional, verbal, or physical abuse and imposes various severe psychological and physical conditions on the mother and unborn child. Domestic violence may have existed before the pregnancy and just continued during pregnancy or it may begin during the pregnancy period. Although women or men in a relationship may be the victims of violence during this pregnancy period, the devastating type of domestic violence is carried out by men against women. This paper discusses abuse against pregnant women, nurses’ intervention, implications to health care and society, and education needed to solve the abuse against women.
Notably, apart from the issue of social separation, domestic violence against pregnant women may also expand into the sphere of health problems and become a significant subject to the health sector. Pregnant women are often among the vulnerable group to the violence. Some studies have stated that domestic violence against pregnant women inserts an excessive load on health care facilities since women who are undergoing violence have a tendency to need health services that are often costly.
Violence against pregnant women can take place in both private and public places and at any time of their pregnancy period. Most women are frightened by these risks of violence since they may affect the condition of the fetus. Pregnant women who are going through violence may experience exclusion and have no opportunity to fight for their human rights.
Women in violent families may expect that pregnancy will change the other partner. Unfortunately, the point is that pregnancy has more tendencies to contribute some opposite effects. A study by Naved (2008) found that one in six abused women stated that their husbands started becoming violent during pregnancy. Another study by the World Health Organization reported that around 320,000 pregnant women (around 6%) per year report that they are abused during pregnancy. Various reports show that domestic violence, mostly against women, is the leading cause of minor and serious injuries to women (between the ages of 18 and 44) in the United States (Liebschutz, 2003).
Pregnant women frequently visit the health care facilities and as a result, it allows health care providers to spot effectively the potential victims of domestic violence. After identifying the victims, nurses can refer them to professions or experts for protection against further domestic violence. The government also should financially support health care facilities since it inserts more cost on these facilities. These finances should also be allocated to educate women on measures to follow if they experience any abuse. Primary care facilities whose functions comprise women have a vital position in identifying domestic violence against pregnant women and should intervene correctly (Babu & Kar, 2012).
Professional organizations have proposed frequent screening of pregnant women for any form of abuse. Health care providers have to be aware of symptoms and signs that can be linked to abuse against pregnant women. Some signs such as contradictory or unclear explanation of the cause of injuries, missed appointments, uncommon complaints and delay in seeking pregnancy care must be identified. Nurses should also note some unusual practices by a pregnant woman, such as drugs and alcohol use or abuse, social seclusion, and depression.
Nurses should have the adequate knowledge and skills to identify and be familiar with the possibility of abuse. Nurses should also understand the legal procedures for reporting the violence against women to the responsible government departments. Registered professional nurses should not only follow-up the victims within the health care facilities, but also in their home for proper management, early intervention, and prevention. For instance, if the caretaker is identified by the nurse as the abuser, nurses should use their interpersonal skills and education to offer assistance to the victim and caretaker (abuser) (Morewitz, 2004).
The nurses should follow-up the victim and any sign of change, such as victim’s openness, minimal sign of depression and regularly visiting the health care facilities are some of the signs that show an improvement or withdrawal from abuse. The nurse should also continue to provide assistance to the client during and after the pregnancy period.
Education is the crucial part in prevention and management of abuse against pregnant women. Pregnant women should be taught on some ways to report and manage these abuses that they may experience during pregnancy. Home care workers or caretakers should be trained on the ways to identify the signs and symptoms of domestic violence. Medical schools and health care providers should also initiate or strengthen training for nurses and other medical professions to allow better understanding on their roles they are expected play when they receive the reports on domestic violence (Ricci & Kyle, 2009).
These educational practices allow medical professions and home care workers to be aware of the aspects that show incidents of domestic violence and provide pregnant women the chance to reveal it in a setting that the women feel protected.
Abuse against pregnant women is common in most societies and some measures should be adopted to reduce or eliminate these incidents. Nurses should take appropriate approaches to intervene and help women undergoing all forms of domestic abuse. Education is a key step in preventing, managing, and controlling abuse, where nurses and other health care professions should be aware of the signs and symptoms of domestic violence against pregnant women. Moreover, women should also be taught on how to manage and report these incidents of abuse.
Babu, B., & Kar, S. (2012). Abuse against women in pregnancy: a population-based study from Eastern India. Journal of Public Health, 1(2), 133-143.
Liebschutz, J. (2003). Violence Against Women: A Physician’s Guide to Identification and Management. New York: ACP Press.
Morewitz, S. (2004). Domestic Violence and Maternal and Child Health. New York: Springer.
Naved, R. (2008). Factors Associated with Physical Spousal Abuse of Women During Pregnancy in Bangladesh. International Family Planning Perspectives, 34(2), 71-78.
Ricci, S., & Kyle, T. (2009). Maternity and Pediatric Nursing. London: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.