Intimate partner violence and perinatal post-traumatic stress and depression symptoms: A systematic review of findings in longitudinal studies.

Author(s): 
Paulson, J.L. (2020).
Source: 
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 1 – 15.
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Summary: 

A review was conducted of the association between IPV (before pregnancy, during and after pregnancy) and post-traumatic stress and depression in the perinatal period (the time, measured in weeks, immediately before and after birth). Findings of the study suggest a strong relationship between IPV and perinatal mental health.

Expanded Abstract: 

The link between maternal violence exposure and adverse obstetric outcomes is well-documented, but less is understood about the relationship between intimate partner violence (IPV) and perinatal post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and depression in women.

The perinatal period spans from pregnancy through 1 year postpartum and encompasses the antenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum periods (Gavin et al., 2005). Perinatal posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are relatively common and confer an increased risk of adverse pregnancy and child outcomes, even at subclinical levels (Ayers et al., 2006; Geller & Stasko, 2017). For some women, the stress of pregnancy is compounded by intimate partner violence (IPV), described as physical, sexual, and psychological acts that are threatened or completed by a current or former partner (Breiding et al., 2008). The relationship between pregnancy and IPV is complex, with research suggesting pregnancy can operate as a risk or protective factor for IPV exposure (Miller et al., 2010; Taillieu & Brownridge, 2010). Perinatal IPV is associated with adverse maternal and infant health outcomes (Sharps et al., 2007), and evidence suggests risk of IPV exposure (Devries et al., 2013) and perinatal mental health difficulties are magnified among those living in low and lower-middle-income countries (Howard et al., 2013).

In this study, a review was conducted to synthesize (combine a number of things into a coherent whole) the empirical literature on the associations between IPV (before pregnancy, during pregnancy, postpartum or after pregnancy) and post-traumatic stress and depression symptoms in the perinatal period (which is time, usually measured in weeks, immediately before and after birth). This review acknowledged the effects of IPV exposure timing, timing of assessment, and IPV subtypes. Forty-seven longitudinal studies met inclusion criteria and were reviewed to determine the effects of IPV exposure on perinatal mental health. Findings suggested a strong relationship between IPV exposure and perinatal mental health. Results were more consistent between perinatal mental health and IPV sustained close to or during the perinatal period than for lifetime IPV exposure. In general, physical, sexual, and psychological IPV were independently associated with perinatal depression and PTSS. Findings underscore the importance of theoretically driven research and the development of treatment protocols for women.

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