Women's experiences of important others in a pregnancy dominated by intimate partner violence

Kristin Engnes, Eva Lidén, Ingela Lundgren
Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences 2013, 27 (3): 643-50

BACKGROUND: Being exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy is a difficult and complex situation. Despite this, there are few studies describing women's own needs for help and support.

AIM: The aim of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of women's experiences of important others in relation to changing their life situation in a pregnancy dominated by IPV.

METHODS: The study has a qualitative phenomenological design. The data were collected through in-depth interviews with seven Norwegian women, who were exposed to IPV during pregnancy.

FINDINGS: Being pregnant and exposed to violence in relation to important others means confronting present life, life history and future life. The essence implies striving for control in an uncontrolled situation, where other people might be experienced as both a rescuer and a risk. This is further described in four constitutions: the child needs protection; my mother is always present for me; an exhausted run for help; and a reduced, but important social network.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: For women exposed to violence, pregnancy can offer an opportunity for change. Midwives play a unique role in relation to care and continuity in this phase of life, as they can support pregnant women, help to identify their needs, possibilities for action and advise them about appropriate services. Midwives can encourage and support women to find people whom they can trust and who can offer assistance. It is vital that midwives ask about the women's relationship to the baby and their social networks, especially the relationship with their mothers. Ethical considerations:  During the whole study process, guidelines for research on violence against women were followed, to respect the integrity, security and confidentiality of the participants. The study is ethically approved.

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