Homicide Is One Of The Leading Causes Of Pregnancy-Associated Injury Deaths, Study Concludes

Homicide is the second leading cause of traumatic death for pregnant and postpartum women. From 1991 to 1999, for every 100,000 live births in the U.S., at least two women died as a result of homicide during pregnancy or within one year of pregnancy. Those are among the findings of a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results were published in the March 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The study found that homicide ranks behind motor vehicle accidents and ahead of unintentional injury, suicide and other causes. Homicides accounted for 31 percent of the maternal injury deaths documented during this period.

Women age 20 or younger and African-American women were at highest risk for pregnancy-associated homicide. More than half the victims of these homicides were killed with firearms.

Women who were abused during pregnancy were three times as likely as women who were not abused during pregnancy to be murdered. Women who received no prenatal health care, or prenatal care only late in their pregnancies, were more likely to be murdered than women who received prenatal care throughout their pregnancies.

Researchers relied on reports provided voluntarily by state health departments, and recommended improved data collection techniques. They were unable to determine the number of homicides of pregnant or postpartum women that were committed by their husbands or boyfriends.

The study’s authors are Jeani Chang, MPH, Cynthia J. Berg, MD, MPH, Linda E. Saltzman, PhD, and Joy Herndon, MS. “Because most pregnant women receive prenatal care or visit their health care provider repeatedly during their pregnancy,” they wrote, “prenatal and postpartum clinical visits represent an opportunity for discussion about violence and for referral and possible intervention.”

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