Connection of Partner Violence and Women’s Loss of Fertility Control and Impact on Health

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Fuqin Liu, PhD
College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX, USA
Judith M. McFarlane, DrPH
College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX, USA
Sandra Cesario, PhD, RNC, FAAN
Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX, USA

Intimate partner violence (IPV) against women is a serious global health issue. Abused women experience a wide range of adverse health consequences, including physical health concerns, mental health dysfunctions, and adverse reproductive health outcomes. Fertility control is documented in the literature as an important concept connected to partner abuse. However, the assessment of women’s fertility control has focused mainly on the controlling behaviors of men.

Informed by a review of the literature, the researchers developed a questionnaire to collect information on fertility control dynamics in an abusive relationship. More specifically, the researchers wanted the questionnaire to assess fertility-controlling behaviors of the abusers, women’s responses to the controlling behaviors, and pregnancy outcomes when the fertility control of the women was compromised. The questionnaire was administered in a multi-year prospective study designed to investigate mother and child outcomes when abused mothers seek assistance in the forms of safe shelter or justice services for the first time. The goal of the parent study is to expand the body of evidence regarding the long-term consequences of IPV on women and their children. Data collection began in 2011, and participants have been interviewed at 4-month intervals since the onset of the study. During the 32-month interview, participants responded to a one-time, investigator-developed fertility control questionnaire in addition to the ongoing repeated measures. The parent study is ongoing in a large urban metropolis in the United States with a population exceeding 4 million people.

The researchers examined the interactions among IPV, fertility control, pregnancy outcomes, and mental health. The findings confirm a strong relationship between severity of abuse, mental health functioning, and fertility control in the context of partner violence. The researchers also found that compromised fertility control was associated with the likelihood of miscarriage, premature birth, and abused-induced premature birth. The fertility control questionnaire expands on recent work on reproductive coercion by other scholars. The findings also indicate that it is important for clinicians to assess abused women about their fertility control.