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Partner violence - huge reproductive heath impact

Media release
STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL 12 noon, 13 August 2008

Partner violence has huge impact on women's reproductive health

New research shows that partner violence is linked with smoking during pregnancy, miscarriages and abortion.

Two studies from The University of Auckland, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, provide previously unavailable information on women's reproductive health in New Zealand.

One study, which explored women's experience of violence of during pregnancy, reports that overall:

• Almost 10% of ever-pregnant women had experienced violence during pregnancy

• Three-quarters of women who had been beaten while pregnant had been beaten by the same person (usually the father of the child) before they were pregnant. For most of these women, the violence stayed the same or got worse after they became pregnant.

• Violence during pregnancy was associated with both women and their partners being less likely to want the pregnancy

• Women who experienced violence during pregnancy were much more likely to smoke tobacco while pregnant (67%), than those who had not experienced violence (22%).

• Positive findings from the study include the nearly universal level of antenatal care and post-natal care that women received

A second study reported new information on non-birth pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and abortion. Findings showed:

• Almost one in three women reported having at least one miscarriage

• At least one in 10 women had terminated a pregnancy.

• Asian women (30%) were 3.5 times more likely to have an abortion compared with Pakeha women (12%).

• Women's experience of intimate partner violence was associated with both increased risk of miscarriage (1.4 times more likely), and increased likelihood of abortion (2.5 times more likely).

Dr Janet Fanslow, a senior lecturer at the University's School of Population Health, is the principal investigator of the studies.

She says the findings reinforce the need for the current Ministry of Health programme of action on responding to family violence. "Settings that provide reproductive health services for women need to continue to train their staff, and ensure that they have adequate community links, to assist women to respond to current and past experiences of partner violence," she says.

The New Zealand Violence Against Women study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. It is a replication of the World Health Organisation Multi-Country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women. The New Zealand study interviewed nearly 3,000 women aged 18 to 64 from the Auckland and Waikato regions about their experiences of violence.


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