High-frequency intimate partner violence during pregnancy, postnatal depression and suicidal tendencies in Harare, Zimbabwe

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


Introduction: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a common formof violence experienced by pregnant women and is believed to have adverse mental health effects postnatally. This study investigated the association of postnatal depression (PND) and suicidal ideation with emotional, physical and sexual IPV experienced by women during pregnancy.

Methods: Data were collected from 842 women interviewed postnatally in six postnatal clinics in Harare, Zimbabwe. We used the World Health Organization versions of IPV and Centre for Epidemiological Studies — Depression Scalemeasures to assess IPV and PND respectively.We derived a violence severity variable and combined forms of IPV variables from IPV questions. Logistic regression was used to analyse data whilst controlling for past mental health and IPV experiences.

Results: One in five women [21.4% (95% CI 18.6–24.2)] met the diagnostic criteria for PND symptomatology whilst 21.6% (95% CI 18.8–24.4) reported postpartum suicide thoughts and 4% (95% CI 2.7–5.4) reported suicide attempts. Two thirds (65.4%) reported any form of IPV. Although individual forms of severe IPV were associated with PND, stronger associations were found between PND and severe emotional IPV or severe combined forms of IPV. Suicidal ideation was associated with emotional IPV. Other forms of IPV, except when combined with emotional IPV, were not individually associated with suicidal ideation.

Conclusion: Emotional IPV during pregnancy negatively affects women’s mental health in the postnatal period. Clinicians and researchers should include it in their conceptualisation of violence and health. Further research must look at possible indirect relationships between sexual and physical IPV on mental health.

Publication (Name of Journal)

General Hospital Psychiatry