Intimate partner violence affects 15–71% of women over their lifetime, resulting in significant stress, negative health effects, and negative economic effects. Features include physical and sexual abuse as well as psychological abuse and controlling behaviors such as reproductive coercion or stalking. Intimate partner violence can occur in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships, though the risk may be higher in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning couples. Pregnancy remains an especially risky time for escalating abuse and also provides a window of opportunity for screening and intervention. Victims experience many consequences of abuse, including physical injuries, traumatic brain injury, and chronic conditions such as headaches, insomnia, pelvic pain, depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Homicide is an especially devastating consequence, with 40–45% of female victims killed by an intimate partner, and homicide remains an important cause of pregnancy-related death. Routine screening is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and obstetrician–gynecologists (ob-gyns) should remain vigilant for signs of abuse in their patients. Often the cycle of abuse makes it difficult for women to break free, and ob-gyns should continue to provide supportive care regardless of a woman’s readiness to leave an abusive relationship.
Intimate partner violence is an important problem affecting women's health, and obstetrician–gynecologists should screen routinely for victims and provide supportive interventions.
Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, California.
Corresponding author: Monica A. Lutgendorf, MD, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, CA; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The author thanks Donna K. Murico, M.I.L.S., for her technical and literature search assistance.
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