Intimate partner violence and maternal mental health ten years after a first birth: An Australian prospective cohort study of first-time mothers

Stephanie J. Brown, Fiona Mensah, Rebecca Giallo, Hannah Woolhouse, Kelsey Hegarty, Jan M. Nicholson, Deirdre Gartland

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: We aimed to assess the relationship between intimate partner violence (IPV) and maternal mental health ten years after a first birth Methods: 1507 first-time mothers completed questionnaires at 3, 6, 12 and 18 months postpartum and 4 and ten years post the index birth. Exposure to IPV was assessed using the Composite Abuse Scale at 1, 4 and ten years. Standardised measures of depressive (CES-D), anxiety (BAI) and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PCL-C) were completed at ten-year follow-up. Results: One in three (34%) women experienced IPV between the birth of their first child and their child turning 10. For the one in six women (18.6%) who experienced IPV in the year prior to ten-year follow-up, the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 38.9% compared with 14.2% for women who never reported IPV (adjusted odds ratio [AdjOR] 2.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.9–4.5). Prevalence of anxiety symptoms was 28.1% compared with 8.5% (AdjOR 3.4, 95% CI 2.0–5.9); and prevalence of post-traumatic stress symptoms was 41.9% compared with 11.3% (AdjOR 4.9, 95% CI 3.0–7.9). Limitations: Mental health symptoms and exposure to IPV were assessed by self-report and may be subject to misclassification bias as a result of non-disclosure. Conclusions: The high prevalence of mental health symptoms among women exposed to IPV in the ten years after giving birth coupled with the extent of post-traumatic stress symptoms and co-morbid mental health symptoms reinforce the need to provide appropriate care and referral pathways to women in the decade after having a baby. Recognition of the context of IPV and nature of mental health concerns is needed in tailoring responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-257
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • PTSD
  • intimate partner violence
  • maternal mental health
  • prospective cohort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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