UI study shows correlation between domestic violence and premature births

University of Iowa researchers say domestic violence affects one in four women.

University of Iowa researchers say domestic violence affects one in four women.

Here in the United States, 4,000,000 women suffer from domestic abuse.

"We wanted to compare the women who had preterm birth with women who did not have preterm birth and then we looked at the exposure of domestic violence to see if that increased the risk," Brittney Donovan said.

She says most people don't know pregnant mothers are being abused and the impact it has on their unborn baby.

"We wanted to identify what risks it may impose on a pregnancy and on the infant at the time of delivery," Audrey Saftlas, professor of epidemiology said.

They looked at physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In some cases, mothers were being abused in more than one way.

"We found that the highest risk was when you were physically abused," Donovan said.

"We don't know whether the violence started in pregnancy or preceded the pregnancy," Saftlas said.

In most cases, they found the partner was abusing the mother before she was pregnant and that the abuse decreased during pregnancy if the partner was the dad.

The abuse increased after pregnancy and could impact future pregnancies.

"Women who experienced either physical violence during pregnancy, sexual violence during pregnancy or emotional abuse during pregnancy were at two-fold increased risk at preterm delivery and having a low birth rate infant," Saftlas said.

In the end, they're hoping prenatal doctors and nurses can be a voice in stopping domestic violence.

"Work needs to be done to identify women who are experiencing violence during pregnancy," Saftlas said.

"She has some kind of sign she is being abused maybe you could talk to her or give her counseling or tell her to go see a therapist or give her means to go see a therapist so that she can go get the help that she needs," Donovan said.

Researchers found women who experienced premature births have a higher risk of it happening again.