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Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2020 Jan 6:20764019897286. doi: 10.1177/0020764019897286. [Epub ahead of print]

Is intimate partner violence more common in pregnant women with severe mental illness? A retrospective study.

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Graylands Hospital, Mount Claremont, WA, Australia.
School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, Australia.
School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Perth, WA, Australia.
King Edward Memorial Hospital, Subiaco, WA, Australia.
School of Medicine, Division of General Practice, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia.



To examine the risk of past and current experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV) in women with severe mental illness (SMI) in pregnancy.


We examined past and current experiences of IPV in women with SMI in pregnancy. The data of 304 women with SMI including schizophrenia and related psychotic disorders and Bipolar Disorder meeting International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision, Australian Modification (ICD-10-AM) criteria were extracted from hospital records at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Western Australia. Comparisons were made between our study data and the Australian population data reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which included data on pregnant women in Western Australia. Additional measures included reported demographics, substance use and pregnancy variables.


Around 48% of pregnant women with SMI had experienced IPV and were three times the risk when compared with the general pregnant population in Australia. There was no difference in rates of IPV in those women with psychotic disorders when compared with bipolar disorder. Furthermore, the rates of smoking and illicit substance use were significantly higher in pregnant women with SMI who experienced IPV compared with those who have not experienced IPV.


These findings suggest women with SMI in pregnancy are at significantly higher risk of having experienced or experiencing IPV. In addition, IPV in pregnant women with SMI may increase the risk of smoking and illicit substance use. Together this suggests that maternity and mental health services should ensure there are both screening and support pathways for IPV that are developed and evaluated specifically for pregnant women with SMI.


Severe mental illness; bipolar disorder; domestic violence; pregnancy; schizophrenia


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