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Routine enquiry into domestic violence 'essential'

New research conducted at UWE, Bristol confirms that pregnant women believe that routine enquiry by midwives into domestic violence is a positive move forward.

Midwives also report that domestic violence training has increased their confidence in dealing with positive disclosures and working collaboratively with other agencies. The research identified barriers to disclosure remain, often connected to the presence of a partner during consultations or language barriers.

Researchers Professor Debra Salmon and Kathleen Baird, Senior Midwifery Lecturer, from the University of the West of England, working in partnership with the midwifery teams at North Bristol NHS Trust, have been examining this subject since 2004.

The latest report, 'A Five Year Follow up Study of the 'Bristol Pregnancy Domestic Violence Programme' and Introduction of Routine Antenatal Enquiry', has concentrated on three distinct areas; how pregnant women felt about being asked about domestic violence; the experience of maternity care amongst those women living with a violent partner and how the changes in midwifery practice to encourage disclosure have been maintained since their introduction in Bristol in 2004.

The key findings indicate that of the 79% of women taking part who had been asked about domestic violence 94% said they were comfortable with being questioned, 96.6% thought questioning to be appropriate and 95.3% understood the reasons for the questioning. 95% thought that women in an abusive relationship would benefit from advice and support that midwives would be in a position to help with.

Around 300 women took part in the Bristol survey and of the four who said they were suffering domestic abuse only two had told the midwife. Eight women using local domestic abuse services undertook face to face interviews and they unanimously agreed it was essential that midwives asked about violence as they would not have had the courage to bring the subject up if the midwives had not.

Ann Remmers, Director of Midwifery, North Bristol NHS Trust, said, "The results of this research show this should form a key part of midwifery practice, which is of huge benefit to women and their families who experience domestic violence."