The Lived Experience of Childbearing From Survivors of Sexual Abuse: “It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times”

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In the United States, one in every 5 women (19.3%) will experience sexual violence during her lifetime.[1] The childbearing experience has the potential to be negatively impacted by past trauma.[2, 3] Furthermore, pregnancy and childbirth represent a distinctive part of a woman's life cycle that are intrinsically linked to her overall health.[3] Women with a history of sexual abuse can have a heightened vulnerability to the physical and emotional transformations that occur with childbearing. Survivors are at increased risk for health consequences, such as anxiety, depression, sexually transmitted infections, and both gynecologic and pregnancy complications.[4, 5] Survivors of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to have a preterm birth.[6] Women with a history of sexual abuse are more likely to use tobacco and drugs during pregnancy, which can lead to growth restriction in the neonate and/or cognitive delays in the child.[6, 7] Survivors are more likely to have partners who abuse drugs and/or partners who emotionally, physically, or sexually abuse them.[6] Suicidal ideation is also significantly more common in survivors when compared to nonsurvivors.[6] A history of sexual abuse has the potential to impact several, if not all, aspects of a woman's pregnancy and childbirth, thereby affecting her long-term physical and emotional well-being.[3],[8-11] Women with a history of childhood sexual abuse report impaired prenatal care experiences and feel unprepared for labor.[12] Survivors are particularly vulnerable to fear throughout pregnancy, labor and birth, and the postpartum period.[2, 8, 13, 14] Feelings of distress place survivors at higher risk for poor pregnancy outcomes.[15] The adverse pregnancy outcomes, combined with the prevalence of sexual abuse, illustrate the need for continued research to understand the childbearing experiences of survivors. The purpose of this study was to understand the experience of pregnancy, labor, and birth events from the perspective of survivors of sexual abuse.


Copyright 2015 the American College of Nurse-Midwives, published by Wiley

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Publication Title

Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health

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LoGiudice, J. A., & Beck, C. T. (2016). The Lived Experience of Childbearing From Survivors of Sexual Abuse: “It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times”. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 61(4), 474-481. doi:10.1111/jmwh.12421.



Peer Reviewed