Opportunities and obstacles to screening pregnant women for intimate partner violence during antenatal care in Zimbabwe
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Pregnancy offers an opportunity for midwives to recognise and respond to women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). However, most antenatal care interventions have been conducted in private specialist services in high-income countries and do not address the structural and cultural realities of developing country settings. We report on an exploratory qualitative study conducted in antenatal public health facilities in Harare, Zimbabwe, involving six in-depth interviews with midwives and seven FGDs with 64 pregnant and postpartum women. Recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic content analysis. We found that identifying and responding to IPV in antenatal care is hampered by inadequate human, financial and infrastructural resources as well as poor support of gender-based violence training for midwives. Midwives had divergent views of their role, with some perceiving IPV as a non-clinical, social and domestic problem that does not require their attention, while others who had been sensitised to the problem felt that it could easily overwhelm them. A comprehensive response to IPV by midwives would be difficult to achieve in this setting but sensitised midwives could respond to cues to violence and ultimately assist abused women in culturally sensitive and appropriate ways.