The objective was to examine lifetime exposure to violence, physical and sexual, among women seeking termination of pregnancy (TOP) and its association with socio-demographic factors, PTSD, symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The design of the study was a Swedish multi-centre study targeting women requesting TOP.
All women requesting TOP with a gestational length less than 12 pregnancy weeks were approached for participation in the study. The questionnaire comprised the following research instruments: Screen Questionnaire-Post traumatic Stress Disorder (SQ-PTSD) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). The response rate was 57% and the final sample was 1514 women. Descriptive and analytic statistics were applied.
Lifetime exposure to violence was common among women seeking abortion. Exposure to violence was associated with low education, single marital status, smoking and high alcohol consumption. Exposure to violence was associated with the occurrence of signs of PTSD and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Among those having PTSD, all had been exposed to sexual violence and almost all had been exposed to physical violence, while for those with symptoms of anxiety and depression almost half had been exposed to either physical or sexual violence.
Exposure to physical and sexual abuse was common among women requesting TOP, and was strongly associated with the occurrence of PTSD, symptoms of anxiety and depression. This underscores the importance for health professionals to recognize and offer support to those women exposed to violence.