Such abuse also increases a woman's risk of delivering prematurely and that her child will be born clinically underweight and in need of intensive care. Although it has been previously documented that intimate partner violence against women affects one in four U.S. women, and numerous health consequences have been associated with being a victim of such violence, this is the first study to conclusively demonstrate that physical abuse from husbands or boyfriends compromises a woman's health during pregnancy, her likelihood of carrying a child to term and the health of her newborn.

Women experiencing abuse in the year prior to and/or during a recent pregnancy were 40 percent to 60 percent more likely than non-abused women to report high-blood pressure, vaginal bleeding, severe nausea, kidney or urinary tract infections and hospitalisation during this pregnancy. Abused women were 37 percent more likely to deliver preterm, and children of abused women were 17 percent more likely to be born underweight. Both of these conditions pose grave health risks to newborns, and children born to abused mothers were over 30 percent more likely than other children to require intensive care upon birth.

"It may be that stress resulting from abuse is having a negative impact on the reproductive endocrine system and leading to poor outcomes during pregnancy," said Jay Silverman, assistant professor of society, human development and health at HSPH. "We need to conduct far more research in this area to understand the mechanisms at work, but regardless of the mechanisms, it is clear that abuse from husbands and boyfriends represents a serious risk to the health of women, their pregnancies, and their newborn children."; Source: Harvard School of Public Health