UP TO a third of women suffering domestic violence are experiencing their first attack during pregnancy - and it is increasing their risk of post-natal depression.
New research from the Menzies HeDomestalth Institute of Queensland on domestic violence and pregnancy will be presented to a Griffith University conference on "the mental illness-violence nexus" WED.
The institute's Dr Kathleen Baird led a study of the experiences of 11 women who had been pregnant in the past two years and had received physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse.
Dr Baird said despite regular visits to their doctors, none of the women was asked about whether they were living with domestic abuse.
"Following birth all health care professionals assumed the woman's depression was linked with baby blues or postnatal depression," she said.
She said while physical injuries were "of great consequence", the psychological and emotional impacts had the biggest effect on their wellbeing.
"They suffered extreme psychological distress, including depression before, during and after pregnancy," she said.
"The women talked about the long- term psychological effects of living with abuse and their perpetual state of alertness to the imminent abuse.
"Experiencing domestic violence at any time in a woman's life can result in a multitude of harmful health problems, but violence during pregnancy is of special concern, as the violence not only poses a threat to the woman but also to her fetus."
But Dr Baird said the precise relationship between pregnancy and domestic violence was still unclear, but it was clear that the consequences of such violence did lead to higher risks of neonatal death, premature labour, low birth weight and miscarriage.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.