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Keywords:

  • abused women;
  • battered women;
  • domestic violence;
  • violence against pregnant women

Aim:  To determine the prevalence of violence to pregnant women within 12 months prior to and during the current pregnancy.

Methods:  Cross-sectional study of 534 pregnant women attending three secondary and one tertiary health facility in Abeokuta, Nigeria using semistructured interviewer-administered questionnaires.

Results:  Prevalence of violence within 12 months prior to pregnancy was 14.2%. Polygamous union, low level of education in both woman and partner and consumption of alcohol by partners were significant (P < 0.05) risk factors of violence prior to pregnancy. Verbal abuse was the most common (66.2%) type of abuse. Others included flogging (10.8%), slaps (9.5%), threats of violence (6.8%) and forced sexual intercourse (2.7%). The perpetrators were often husbands (65.8%) and the parents (15.8%).

Some 2.3% of pregnant women had experienced violence during current pregnancy. Low level of education was significantly (P < 0.05) associated with experiencing violence during pregnancy. Although almost 25% of the pregnancies were unplanned, this was not significantly associated with experiencing violence (P > 0.05). There were similarities in the perpetrators and forms of violence experienced before and during pregnancy, with partners being the most common perpetrators.

Conclusion: Gender-based violence is common in our environment. Health-care providers should routinely screen for gender-based violence during antenatal visits in order to protect the health of both mother and child.