Aim: To explore the extent of intimate partner violence during pregnancy and its association with pregnancy intendedness and pregnancy-related behaviours among a representative sample of New Zealand women.
Methods: Face-to-face interviews were conducted with a representative sample of 2391 women who had ever been pregnant, aged 18–64 years old in two regions (urban and rural) in New Zealand.
Results: Six per cent of urban women and 9% of rural women had ever experienced violence during pregnancy; approximately 40% of these had experienced violence in more than one pregnancy. Women who had experienced violence in pregnancy, compared with those who had not, were less likely to report their last pregnancy had been wanted at that time (28% vs 55%), and less likely to report that their partner wanted the pregnancy (40% vs 57%). Antenatal and postnatal care attendance was almost universal during the last pregnancy. Women who had experienced violence during pregnancy were more likely to smoke tobacco during pregnancy (67% vs 22%, P < 0.0001), and more commonly, consumed alcohol (31% vs 20%, not significant). For the most recent pregnancy in which women had experienced violence, most was perpetrated by the child's biological father (96%), and most women (74%) reported that the same man had also beaten her before she was pregnant.
Conclusions: Violence during pregnancy is a significant problem for New Zealand women, with negative health implications for both women and their children. Active intervention and support is necessary to mitigate potential consequences.