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Neighbourhood violence harms pregnancy

Tuesday April 19th, 2016

Women who encounter violence during pregnancy face an increased risk of prematurity and babies born with low birthweight, researchers reported yesterday.

The research at Leicester University, UK, examined the fate of pregnant women in neighbourhoods where murders took place in Brazil.

The researchers say their findings show the effect on pregnancies and on child health of endemic violence.

The modelled research, in the Journal of Development Economics, found that every homicide in a small municipality during the first trimester of a pregnancy was linked to a 17g reduction in birthweights.

However, the researchers say homicides cause more stress when they are rare. In the violent neighbourhoods of Fortaleza in Brazil, the effects of homicides were smaller.

Researcher Dr Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner, from Leicester University, said: “We provide evidence that these effects on birthweight are driven by prematurity rather than growth retardation of full lengths pregnancies, in line with evidence from the medical literature.

“As the mothers examined in the study are likely to live in very similar environments, by exploiting the precise timing of the occurrence of homicides we are able to disentangle the causal effect of homicides from other correlated effects that may otherwise bias these estimates.

Fellow researcher Professor Marco Manacorda, from Queen Mary, University of London, added: “Our results have the potential to generalise to other settings where violence is endemic, as is true for many middle and low-income countries in Latin America and Africa.

"The results presented shed light on the additional cost of violence, largely ignored previously, in these countries.”

Violence and birth outcomes: Evidence from homicides in Brazil Journal of Development Economics April 2016 [abstract]

Tags: A&E | Childbirth and Pregnancy | South America | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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