A cross-sectional survey of pregnant women's perceptions of routine domestic and family violence screening and responses by midwives: Testing of three new tools

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Journal Article
Women and Birth, 2020, 33, (4), pp. 393-400
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© 2019 Australian College of Midwives Background: Implementing Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) screening, support, and prevention within maternity services is becoming common practice but women's experiences of screening are not routinely evaluated. Aims: (1) Explore pregnant women's experiences of routine DFV screening and perceptions of responses by midwives; and (2) undertake preliminary testing of three new tools. Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, pregnant women (n = 210) attending an antenatal service were surveyed. Three new measures: beliefs about DFV screening; non-disclosure of DFV; and midwifery support were tested. Results: Most women (92.3% n = 194) recalled being screened. Twelve (5.8%) respondents had/were experiencing DFV. A quarter (24.1% n = 49) had experienced or witnessed violence in the home as a child. The scales were reliable and factor analysis established validity. Women reported positive beliefs (mean 35.38, SD 3.63 range 19–40) and views about midwifery support (mean 24.88, SD 3.08 range 18–30). There was less agreement about why some women do not disclose DFV (mean 21.97, SD 4.27, range 8–30). Women who experienced or witnessed violence as a child, or were experiencing violence now were less comfortable with screening. Comments (n = 75) revealed support for routine enquiry that was confidential, explained, and occurred in a trusting relationship. Discussion: Women were supportive of screening, but actual rates of disclosure were low. Women acknowledged the importance of screening but did not want their information shared. Conclusions: Women value screening, even if DFV is not disclosed. Exploring women's experiences is central to ensuring quality care.
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