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Pregnant Latinas who experience intimate partner violence are more likely to be depressed or have PTSD

Women who are abused while they are pregnant are more likely to attempt homicide, have unplanned pregnancies, forego prenatal care until the second trimester, and are at greater risk for complications during birth, previous studies have shown. Adding to this knowledge, a new study finds pregnant Latina women who have suffered physical, emotional, or sexual abuse are more likely to be depressed or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Michael A. Rodriguez, M.D., M.P.H., and his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, used questionnaires to assess 210 pregnant Latina women in Los Angeles from January 2003 to January 2004 for intimate partner violence, strength (mastery, resilience, social support, coping strategies), adverse social behavior (social undermining, trauma history, alcohol and tobacco use), PTSD, and depression. Nearly 44 percent of the women reported intimate partner abuse. All 210 women in the study reported similar levels of mastery (being in control of their lives) and resilience. However, social support was lower for the 92 abused women, who also reported higher levels of social undermining by their partner (criticism, anger, insults) and stress. As expected, women who were exposed to abuse were more likely to be depressed (41.3 percent) or have PTSD (16.3 percent) than their nonabused counterparts (18.6 and 7.6 percent, respectively).

The authors recommend screening Latina patients at care sites to identify who is at risk for depression, PTSD, and intimate partner violence.Once these patients are identified, interventions can be implemented to build mastery, resilience, social support, and active coping skills. This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11104).

See "Intimate partner violence, depression and PTSD among pregnant Latina women," by Dr. Rodriguez, MarySue V. Heilemann, Ph.D., R.N., Eve Fielder, Ph.D., and others in the January/February 2008 Annals of Family Medicine 6(1), pp. 44-52.

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