A systematic review of African studies on intimate partner violence against pregnant women: prevalence and risk factors

13 Nov 2012

Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is very high in Africa. However, information obtained from the increasing number of African studies on IPV among pregnant women has not been scientifically analyzed. This paper presents a systematic review summing up the evidence from African studies on IPV prevalence and risk factors among pregnant women. Methods: A key-word defined search of various electronic databases, specific journals and reference lists on IPV prevalence and risk factors during pregnancy resulted in 19 peer-reviewed journal articles which matched our inclusion criteria. Quantitative articles about pregnant women from Africa published in English between 2000 and 2010 were reviewed. At least two reviewers assessed each paper for quality and content. We conducted meta-analysis of prevalence data and reported odds ratios of risk factors. Results: The prevalence of IPV during pregnancy ranges from 2% to 57% (n = 13 studies) with meta-analysis yielding an overall prevalence of 15.23% (95% CI: 14.38 to 16.08%). After adjustment for known confounders, five studies retained significant associations between HIV and IPV during pregnancy (OR1.48–3.10). Five studies demonstrated strong evidence that a history of violence is significantly associated with IPV in pregnancy and alcohol abuse by a partner also increases a woman’s chances of being abused during pregnancy (OR 2.89–11.60). Other risk factors include risky sexual behaviours, low socioeconomic status and young age. Conclusion: The prevalence of IPV among pregnant women in Africa is one of the highest reported globally. The major risk factors included HIV infection, history of violence and alcohol and drug use. This evidence points to the importance of further research to both better understand IPV during pregnancy and feed into interventions in reproductive health services to prevent and minimize the impact of such violence.