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Physical Abuse Increases Risk of Preterm Birth

Risk increased even after controlling for sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics

TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are physically abused during pregnancy are at higher risk of giving birth prematurely, even after controlling for factors such as age and tobacco or alcohol use, according to research published in the February issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Teresa Rodrigues, M.D., from the University of Porto Medical School in Porto, Portugal, and colleagues conducted a hospital-based survey of 2,660 consecutive women with live births (including 217 births at less than 37 weeks) on physical abuse during pregnancy.

The researchers found that significantly more mothers of preterm infants than term infants reported physical abuse during pregnancy (24 versus 8 percent). This remained true after controlling for a number of sociodemographic, behavioral and obstetric variables including age, marital status, education, income, planned pregnancy, antenatal care, and tobacco or alcohol use (odds ratio 3.14).

"Women who have had physical abuse during pregnancy present a large increase in the risk of preterm delivery, independently from a large set of sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics usually recognized as determinants of preterm birth," Rodrigues and colleagues conclude.

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