The mental toll of violence is amplified for new moms
By Teddi Fine
Intimate partner violence (IPV) most commonly affects women in their child-bearing years. While 95% of women seek prenatal care, few seek medical care following IPV. Even fewer reach out for emotional support, despite two to three times the rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than other women. Until now, little research has examined the emotional toll of IPV, particularly on pregnant women and young mothers.
In “Impact of intimate partner violence on pregnant women’s mental health [Issues in Mental Health, February 2010], professor Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN; associate professor Linda Rose, PhD, RN; and colleagues assess IPV’s impact on emotional well-being and coping. Their qualitative study of 27 abused, pregnant women affirms not only the pervasive and intense emotional distress caused by IPV but also the equally intense maternal instincts to deflect abuse from their children. Both can affect emotional well-being.
Sharps explains, “When women become mothers, the depression and anxiety of intimate partner violence victimization is amplified by the emotional changes associated with the transition to maternal roles.” The study amplifies the value of early recognition and attention to the emotional aspects of IPV and the need for mental health services to be included among the services for IPV victims and their families.
Rose observes, “We were also struck by the incredible mental strength evidenced by these victimized pregnant and parenting women, as well as their commitment to protect their children, and their desire to be good parents. It makes the need for early intervention all the more compelling.”