Isn’t pregnancy supposed to be a joyful time? A cross-sectional study on the types of domestic violence women experience during pregnancy in Malawi
Domestic violence against pregnant women exists in Malawi but its magnitude and types were, until recently published data, unknown due to scanty published data on the subject. This study aimed at identifying types of abuse women experience during pregnancy.
The study design was cross-sectional descriptive quantitative using a random sample of 292 pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic at Nsanje District Hospital, southern region of Malawi. A structured questionnaire was administered to each pregnant woman that consented to participate. Data was analyzed using SPSS software version 16. Descriptive statistics were computed for demographic data and type of violence.
The findings indicate that a majority (59%) of women experienced more abuse during pregnancy, compared to 12.5% prior to current pregnancy. The women were psychologically (29%), sexually (28%) and physically (14%) abused during pregnancy. There was a significant association (P<0.05) between domestic violence and witnessing abuse as a child in the home. Additionally, domestic violence was significantly associated (P<0.05) with a woman being pregnant. No significant association (P>0.05) was found between domestic violence and other demographic variables; age, low education level and low income.
The pregnancy period is not a joyful time for all women. The study found high levels of psychological, sexual and physical domestic abuse among pregnant women. We advocate for community awareness creation on domestic violence, strengthening victim support units and One-Stop centres, and training health workers to screen for and counsel victims during antenatal care.