New York: Domestic violence by husband or ex-husband during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg) and small-for-gestational-age babies, finds a study. According to researchers, domestic violence by a partner or ex-partner can directly affect the growing foetus, through physical or sexual trauma or indirectly due to increased maternal stress, inadequate nutrition and poor prenatal care. "Domestic violence by a partner or ex-partner is of particular concern during pregnancy when not one, but two lives are at risk,” said lead study author Audrey Saftlas from University of Iowa. “Although rates of domestic violence differ across the world, the detrimental effects of abuse on pregnant women are very clear and we must continue to establish effective interventions globally in order to prevent violence and to support women who report abuse," explained Saftlas in the paper published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG). Domestic violence includes physical, sexual, financial, psychological or emotional abuse. The team analysed 50 studies into the effects of domestic violence by a partner or ex-partner on risk of preterm birth, low birth weight (less than 2500g) and small-for-gestational-age babies. The combined results evaluated more than five million women from 17 countries, 15,000 of whom had experienced domestic violence. The findings showed that domestic violence doubled the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. This risk was increased further for women who experienced two or more types of domestic violence during their pregnancy. "Healthcare professionals have an important role to play in tackling the problem and are often the first and only point of contact that the isolated and vulnerable victim reaches out to," noted co-author Lesley Regan from the Royal College of obstetricians and gynaecologists in Britain.