Incidence and risk factors for intimate partner violence during the postpartum period

OBJECTIVE To estimate the incidence and identify risk factors for intimate partner violence during postpartum.METHODS This prospective cohort study was conducted with women, aged between 18-49 years, enrolled in the Brazilian Family Health Strategy in Recife, Northeastern Brazil, between 2005 and 2006. Of the 1.057 women interviewed during pregnancy and postpartum, 539 women, who did not report violence before or during pregnancy, were evaluated. A theoretical-conceptual framework was built with three levels of factors hierarchically ordered: women’s and partners’ sociodemografic and behavioral characteristics, and relationship dynamics. Incidence and risk factors of intimate partner violence were estimated by Poisson Regression.RESULTS The incidence of violence during postpartum was 9.3% (95%CI 7.0;12.0). Isolated psychological violence was the most common (4.3%; 95%CI 2.8;6.4). The overlapping of psychological with physical violence occurred at 3.3% (95%CI 2.0;5.3) and with physical and/or sexual in almost 2.0% (95%CI 0.8;3.0) of cases. The risk of partner violence during postpartum was increased for women with a low level of education (RR = 2.6; 95%CI 1.3;5.4), without own income (RR = 1.7; 95%CI 1.0;2.9) and those who perpetrated physical violence against their partner without being assaulted first (RR = 2.0; 95%CI 1.2;3.4), had a very controlling partner (RR = 2.5; 95%CI 1.1;5.8), and had frequent fights with their partner (RR = 1.7; 95%CI 1.0;2.9).CONCLUSIONS The high incidence of intimate partner violence during postpartum and its association with aspects of the relationship’s quality between the couple, demonstrated the need for public policies that promote conflict mediation and enable forms of empowerment for women to address the cycle of violence.