March 30, 2022

Prevalence of Self-Reported Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Abuse and Association with Fear of Childbirth in Pregnant Women with Epilepsy – The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study

Abstract found on Wiley Online Library


Objective: To examine the prevalence of self-reported experiences with abuse in pregnant women with epilepsy and the association between having experienced abuse and childbirth expectations, particularly the fear of childbirth.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study of women with and without epilepsy enrolled in the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study 1999-2008. Data on epilepsy diagnosis; antiseizure medication (ASM) use; emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; and childbirth expectations were collected from questionnaires completed during gestational weeks 17-19 and 30.

Results: Our study population included 295 women with ASM-treated epilepsy, 318 women with ASM-untreated epilepsy, and 93,949 women without epilepsy. A total of 115 women (47%) with ASM-treated and 132 women (57%) with ASM-untreated epilepsy reported any emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, compared to 25,100 women (32%) without epilepsy. The adjusted odds ratios (aORs) for having experienced any abuse were 1.8 (95% confidence interval 1.4-2.3) and 1.8 (1.4-2.2) for ASM-treated and ASM-untreated epilepsy, respectively. A total of 29 women (11%) with ASM-treated and 34 women (11%) with ASM-untreated epilepsy reported having been raped, compared to 3088 women (4%) without epilepsy [aORs 2.8 (1.8-4.1) and 2.9 (2.0-4.2), respectively]. In nulliparous women with ASM-untreated epilepsy, having experienced abuse was associated with fear of childbirth; 22 women (31%) with abuse experiences reported fear of childbirth compared to 5 women (7%) with no experience of abuse [aOR 5.4 (1.7-17.2)]. This association was not seen in multiparous women or in women with ASM-treated epilepsy.

Significance: More women with epilepsy reported emotional, physical, and sexual abuse than women without epilepsy. Such experiences may be associated with childbirth expectations.