Psychological Intimate Partner Violence During Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes: Threat of Violence Versus Other Verbal and Emotional Abuse

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Although physical abuse during pregnancy has been linked to poor birth outcomes, the role of psychological abuse is less well understood. Associations between birth outcomes and types of psychological abuse during pregnancy (being threatened, screamed at, or insulted) were examined in 489 women with no history of physical abuse. Being threatened was significantly associated with adverse birth outcomes, with women reporting any instance during pregnancy twice as likely to deliver a low birth weight baby. These results remained after controlling for background factors. Finally, most of the variance between threats and birth weight was accounted for by mediating health behaviors (specifically prenatal care utilization and pregnancy weight gain), suggesting pathways for the negative effects of being threatened by an intimate partner during pregnancy.