At least 2.5% of pregnant women suffer some kind of physical or psychological violence from their partner. The data is extracted from the women's statements when answering a small questionnaire (the PVS) with three direct questions of binary response that for two years the Catalan health centres have to carry out to detect risk situations. The figure is not an exact picture of the problem and even less so with the pandemic in the background, which has forced many women to be interviewed by telephone or video conference. This has meant they often lack enough privacy, or answer with their partner at their side, thus inhibiting their responses, says the head of the ASSIR programme (Sexual and Reproductive Health Care) in Catalonia, Cristina Martínez Bueno. Martínez Bueno notes that more cases of abuse have been detected than last year. "There is a higher prevalence of male violence than of seasonal diabetes, because not all aggressions are detected," she says.
According to the protocol, all pregnant women have to pass the form, but this year, for various reasons, only three quarters of the 44,743 women treated in the outpatient clinics have responded. Of these, 2,135 have either been beaten, abused or threatened by a former partner in the past year or do not feel safe in their current relationship.
From here, explains Martínez Bueno, the professionals pass the case on to the social workers, who have to follow up to analyse "the degree of risk" of the woman in order to alert the police or work on "accompaniment to empower her and psychological support", explains Martínez Bueno.
In some cases, pregnancy can be "the trigger" of the violence, because the aggressor takes advantage of the "vulnerability of the woman", but it has also been detected that precisely during the gestation period the aggressions stop, because the man starts to see the woman as the recipient who takes care of his child, but after the birth the violence continues and even increases. "You are getting very fat", "You are getting uglier every day" or "You are becoming unbearable" are some of the phrases that women explain that they receive from their partners.
Martínez Bueno admits that the data from the PVS are part of the big problem of violence in pregnancy and refers to the fact that there are studies that estimate that up to 7.7% of these women are victims of aggression in the home. The questionnaire is done, in principle, without the presence of the partner, but sometimes women find it difficult to be honest at first because they "need time" and do not report the violence until they have had a few visits with their reference midwife, the professional who will visit them most during the pregnancy. In addition, experts warn that they are not always aware that they suffer violence if it is not physical.