Click here to return to our home page   Perinatal Review - Domestic Violence

NHS Logo

Important Agencies and Conclusion

Back to the list of reviews


Ellen Knox, Perinatal Institute - December 2001

Why is it a health care issue?

1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence during their lifetime (Reference1). Many cases start or escalate during pregnancy (Reference2).  Violence may take the form of physical, sexual or psychological abuse and the perpetrator seeks control over their victim, which may result in isolation from the outside world. The health service may be their only point of contact and chance to disclose. However it takes an average of 35 episodes of violence before help is sought and most women will only volunteer information if asked directly (Reference3, Reference4).

In addition to the obvious distress caused, domestic violence causes miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, abruption, stillbirth and MATERNAL DEATH (Reference2).

12% of all the women whose deaths were included in the 1997-99 confidential enquiry had self declared that they were subject to violence in the home. (Reference5).


1. Home Office (1999). Domestic Violence: Findings from a new British Crime Survey self-completion questionnaire.

2. Mezey G C (1997) Domestic violence in pregnancy. Chapter 21 in Bewley S, Friend J and Mezey G (Eds).

3. Yearnshire S (1997) Analysis of Cohort. Chapter 5 in Bewley S, Friend J and Mezey G (Eds).

4. Mezey G, Bacchus L, Haworth A, Bewley S. 2000. An exploration of the prevalence, nature and effect of domestic violence in pregnancy. ESRC study.

5. Why Mothers Die 1997-1999. Confidential Enquiries Into Maternal Deaths 2001. Published RCOG press. Available on line


© Perinatal Institute 2011