A new study in PLOS Medicine suggests that, there may be a link between domestic violence and perinatal mental health disorders. Women who develop mental health issues around birth are more likely to have experienced domestic violence.
British researchers did a systemic review and meta-analysis of 67 studies and found that many of the symptoms of perinatal mental disorders were commonly associated with experiencing domestic violence. However, the researchers did caution that causality cannot necessarily be inferred. Twelve percent to 13% of postnatal depression cases were linked to violence during pregnancy. Women with perinatal depression were 3 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence in the past year and 5 times more likely to have experienced it during their pregnancy. Those suffering from antenatal anxiety disorders were 3 times more likely to have experienced domestic violence over their lifetime. Women with postnatal anxiety had less of a connection with previous violence.
The findings do not definitively prove that domestic violence can cause perinatal mental health disorders, or that these health disorders can lead to subsequent domestic violence episodes. The review also looked at information surrounding other types of perinatal mental disorders such as eating disorders and puerperal psychosis.
The researchers stressed that the results of the meta-analysis indicate that health professionals in contact with pregnant women should be especially vigilant about identifying those who are living with domestic violence. However, there is little data to prove that current methods of screening have positive impact and the study authors say that more data are needed to identify the best methods of screening and optimize care to improve outcomes.