Pregnant woman (Shutterstock via Africa Studio)

A six-year study by domestic violence advocates found that around one third of Connecticut women who died while pregnant or within a year of giving birth had experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. 

The report, released last week by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, reviewed case narratives from the Connecticut Maternal Mortality Review Committee between 2015 and 2021. 

Of the 102 individuals who died during or within a year of pregnancy, 33 had experienced intimate partner violence. The numbers in the report exposed a stronger connection between domestic violence and pregnancy-associated deaths than had been evident based on the mortality review committee’s case narratives. 

In a press release, Meghan Scanlon, CEO of the coalition, said the findings revealed missed opportunities for interventions. 

“This report offers an important opportunity for our state’s healthcare system to assess and strengthen screening and care procedures for pregnant individuals,” Scanlon said. “It is our hope that the missed opportunities for intervention discussed in this report can be turned into positive change that saves lives.”

The report found that of the 13 now-deceased individuals who had experienced intimate partner violence while they were pregnant, none were referred to domestic violence services even though most participated in prenatal visits and around half were screened for intimate partner violence. 

Ashley Starr Frechette, CCADV’s director of health professional outreach, said it was alarming how few referrals were made to IPV services even after screenings were conducted. 

“It is critical that healthcare providers implement strong screening, education, and referral protocols for all pregnant and postpartum patients,” she said. “The research is clear that this is a key point of intervention which Connecticut simply cannot afford to miss.”

Of the cases reviewed in the study, 22 individuals experienced domestic violence while they were pregnant or during the year immediately afterward. Five were murdered by an intimate partner, two died by suicide, and nine by accidental overdose, according to the report.

The report identified a number of red flags for pregnancy-related intimate partner violence including repeated hospital visits for apparently accidental injuries like falling or slipping as well as abdominal pain, decreased fetal movement and ruptured uterus among others. 

Anyone seeking help for intimate partner violence can call or text (888) 774-2900 or visit Services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.