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Keywords:

  • abuse;
  • battering during pregnancy;
  • birth weight;
  • preterm birth;
  • violence during pregnancy

In order to assess the relationship between lifetime and during pregnancy experience of violence and low birth weight (LBW) and preterm birth outcomes, we designed a prospective cohort study in which the birth outcomes of women who experienced violence before their pregnancy or who experienced violence during pregnancy were compared to women who reported no lifetime experience of violence. We found that the risk of having a low birth weight or preterm baby was higher for women who did not experience violence. The proportion of women who had LBW babies was 7.1% for women who experienced violence during pregnancy, 7.8% for women who experienced violence before the current pregnancy, and 9.1% for nonexposed women. The proportion of preterm births was 3.5% for women exposed to violence during pregnancy, 8.5% for women exposed before the current pregnancy, and 9.7% for nonexposed women. However, married women who experienced violence had a higher proportion of LBW and preterm infants compared to the reference group of nonvictims of violence. Overall, women who experienced violence during pregnancy and before their current pregnancy did not have a greater proportion of LBW babies or preterm births. The findings suggest that married women in certain populations may experience more frequent or more severe experience of violence than unmarried women.