Women’s health conference highlights the toll of violence and reproductive coercion

Found in: Latest news

Women’s health conference highlights the toll of violence and reproductive coercion

Intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion are common, significantly increase the odds of adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes, and ought to be screened for by all women’s health specialists, a recent summit of Australian and New Zealand obstetricians and gynaecologists was told.

Dr Vijay Roach, president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), has identified domestic and family violence, and mental health as two key issues for the College as it steps up its advocacy on the social determinants of women’s wellbeing.

As well as laying out the scope of domestic and family violence, and demonstrating its links to a host of adverse outcomes including sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, preterm delivery, low birthweight and foetal or neonatal death, speakers made the case for obstetric and gynaecological doctors to walk with their patients as ‘safety allies’, and having strategies for women experiencing and at risk of violence and abuse.

For obstetric doctors, the imperative was clear, with demonstrated links to outcomes including preterm birth, low birth weight, admission to NICU, growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, labour and obstetric complications including caesarean section, and foetal and neonatal death.

Professor Kelsey Hegarty, director of the Centre of Research Excellence to Promote Safer Families, who – in keeping with the meeting’s theme (Stop. Start. Continue) – urged colleagues to stop ignoring the issue, start asking women about it and continue responding to their needs.

Hegarty said what women wanted was simple: someone to listen, and a team to support them.

Contrary to the received wisdom that people experiencing violence and abuse in their relationship were reluctant to talk about it, Hegarty said it was overwhelmingly the case that women were relieved to be asked about it, to have their story heard, and to be validated.

See a Twitter summary of her talk.

Professor Hegarty had some important advice for health care workers, including the WHO’s LIVES framework for responding to intimate partner violence (Listen, Inquire about needs and concerns, Validate, Enhance safety, Support).