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Women with Schizophrenia Are At Three Times Increased Risk of Interpersonal Violence During and After Pregnancy, Reveals a Study

A new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) indicates that Pregnant and postpartum people with schizophrenia possess a more than threefold elevated risk of an emergency department visit for interpersonal violence than those without schizophrenia.

Interpersonal violence can contain physical, sexual, and psychological abuse by a family member, intimate partner, acquaintance, or stranger.

Kelly Leslie, lead author and fourth-year psychiatry resident from the University of Toronto, said, "Along with a threefold increased risk for individuals with schizophrenia, we also discovered that most people, irrespective of having schizophrenia, are screened for interpersonal brutality during pregnancy. This indicates possibilities for health care providers to intervene and contain harm to these patients and their children."

Conducted by researchers from ICES and Women's College Hospital, the study recruited more than 1.8 million pregnant people aged 15–49 years, of whom 4470 were diagnosed with schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia were more likely to reside in a lower-income neighbourhood, have other psychiatric and chronic medical conditions, and have had an emergency department (ED) visit for interpersonal violence in the two years before their pregnancy.

Key findings of the study were-

Altogether, 3.1% of people with schizophrenia had an ED visit for interpersonal violence during pregnancy and the first year postpartum, compared to 0.4% of those without schizophrenia.

Pregnant individuals with schizophrenia were equally likely to be screened for, yet more likely to self-report interpersonal violence.

Study participants who were screened but did not reveal interpersonal violence in pregnancy; schizophrenia showed a sixfold increase in the risk of encountering an ED visit for interpersonal violence in both pregnancy and postpartum.

Dr. Simone Vigod, head of psychiatry at the Women's College Hospital and a professor at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, with coauthors, concluded, "Periodic violence screening in antenatal care settings is a vital opportunity for intervention to prevent severe physical, psychological and social harm to these patients and their kids."

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