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Ob-Gyns Should Screen for Domestic Abuse: Experts

TUESDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Obstetricians and gynecologists should screen all patients for intimate partner violence, including during prenatal visits, according to new recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In addition, ob-gyns should offer patients support, and have referral and resource information on hand to give to patients who are victims of abuse.

Intimate partner violence includes physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, progressive isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation and reproductive coercion. The goal of these behaviors is to establish control over a partner.

The violence can occur among both heterosexual and same-sex partners and at every level of society, regardless of age, gender, income levels, race, ethnicity, religion or educational background, according to a news release from the college.

About one in four women has been physically and/or sexually assaulted by a current or former partner, and nearly 324,000 pregnant women are abused by their partners each year in the United States, researchers have found.

Intimate partner violence has been linked to poor pregnancy outcomes, including poor weight gain, infection, fetal injury, preterm delivery, low birth weight and stillbirth.

Signs and symptoms that a woman is experiencing violence include physical injuries, chronic headaches, chronic pelvic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and recurrent vaginal infections. Violence is often linked to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, unintended pregnancy and suicide.

"Women of all ages experience intimate partner violence, but it is most prevalent among reproductive-age women," Dr. Maureen Phipps, chair of the college's Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, said in the news release. "We have a prime opportunity to identify and help women who are being abused by incorporating this screening into our routine office visits with each and every patient."

The recommendations are published in the February issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about domestic violence.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, news release, Jan. 23, 2012

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