Abuse Disclosure in Privately and Medicaid-Funded Pregnant Women


Dr. Linda Bullock, RN, PhD, FAAN, University of Missouri-Columbia, Sinclair School of Nursing, S327, Columbia, MO 65211. E-mail: lbullock@missouri.edu


Disclosure of abuse by pregnant women can vary depending on whether the woman is assessed directly by a trained interviewer versus written questionnaires, and if she is asked repeatedly during the course of pregnancy. One thousand pregnant women were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial designed to assess the effects of a nursing case management intervention on the mental and physical well-being of pregnant women experiencing or at risk for abuse. Thirteen percent of the total study participants reported current abuse and/or abuse within the past year, with only 2% of those reporting that the abuse occurred during pregnancy. The incidence of reported abuse was much higher among Medicaid-funded women (28.9%) than privately insured women (8.7%). Regardless of source of payment, women reporting abuse were significantly younger, less educated, nonwhite with lower income, and had significantly higher stress and lower self-esteem than women not reporting abuse. A high incidence of women reporting intimate partner violence described being choked on the Danger Assessment Screen (34%). We strongly urge that choking be added to routine screening questions used during pregnancy and that the Danger Assessment tool is used for further evaluation of women who screen positive. In addition, we believe another barrier to reporting abuse was fear of being reported to child protective services, contributing to the overall low rate of abuse disclosure.