Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 778–789 | Cite as

Correlates of Abuse Around the Time of Pregnancy: Results from a National Survey of Canadian Women

  • Dawn KingstonEmail author
  • Maureen Heaman
  • Marcelo Urquia
  • Patricia O’Campo
  • Patricia Janssen
  • Kellie Thiessen
  • Janet Smylie
Original Paper


Objectives Although several studies have examined risk factors associated with abuse during pregnancy or postpartum periods, many used clinic-based or small regional samples, and few were national or population-based, limiting their generalizability and clinical utility. The purpose of this study was to describe the correlates of abuse around the time of pregnancy among a nationally representative sample of women in Canada. Methods Using data from 6421 postpartum women (weighted n = 76,500) who completed the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey from 10/2006 to 01/2007, we explored the association between demographic, psychosocial, behavioral, medical/obstetric factors and ‘any’ and ‘severe’ abuse. ‘Any abuse’ was defined as an affirmative answer to one or more of 10 items asked about physical or sexual abuse or threats of abuse. ‘Severe abuse’ was defined as experiencing a combination of threats and physical or sexual abuse. Odds ratios and their 95 % confidence intervals were generated from multivariable logistic regression models. Results 10.5 % of women (weighted n = 8400) reported ‘any’ abuse and 4.3 % (weighted n = 3400) reported ‘severe’ abuse in the previous 2 years. Correlates of severe abuse included: age <20 years; household income below the low income cut-off; single; stressful life events; history of depression or antidepressant use; smoking during pregnancy; and alcohol use prior to pregnancy. Correlates of ‘any’ abuse were the same as ‘severe’ abuse with the addition of age 20–34 years, developing a new health problem during pregnancy, and inadequate support during pregnancy. Increased odds of ‘any’ and ‘severe’ abuse were found for women who self-identified as Aboriginal and reduced odds of ‘any’ abuse were found among immigrant women and those who took folic acid pre-pregnancy. Conclusions We identified risk factors that may enhance early detection of abuse in the perinatal period, and inform the development of interventions and preventive strategies to address this important public health problem.


Abuse Violence Maternity experiences survey Postpartum Pregnancy Risk factors 



This research was supported by funds to the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) from the Social Science and Humanities research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Statistics Canada. Although the research and analysis are based on data from Statistics Canada, the opinions expressed do not represent the views of Statistics Canada or the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN). The authors would like to acknowledge the members of the Maternity Experiences Study Group of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System who were instrumental in the development of the MES and Statistics Canada for its collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada in the implementation of the MES. We would like to thank Erin Corston, former Director, Health and Environment, Native Women’s Association of Canada, for reviewing the manuscript for relevance to Aboriginal women’s health. Dr. Heaman received career support from a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chair in Gender and Health award (2008–2013). Dr. Kingston receives career support from the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research (2013–2015) and a CIHR New Investigator Award (2015–2019). Dr. Urquia is supported by a CIHR New Investigator Award (2013–2018). Dr. O’Campo is supported by the Alma and Baxter Ricard Chair in Inner City Health. Dr. Janssen is supported by a career salary award from the Child and Family Research Institute. Dr. Smylie receives career support through a CIHR New Investigator Award in Knowledge Translation. No funding was received for this research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dawn Kingston
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maureen Heaman
    • 2
  • Marcelo Urquia
    • 3
  • Patricia O’Campo
    • 3
  • Patricia Janssen
    • 4
  • Kellie Thiessen
    • 2
  • Janet Smylie
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of Health Sciences, College of NursingUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s HospitalUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.School of Population and Public HealthUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Department of Family and Community Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital, Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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