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A knowledge, attitudes, and practice survey among obstetrician-gynaecologists on intimate partner violence in Flanders, Belgium

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      Intimate partner violence (IPV) has consistently been found to afflict one in twenty pregnant women and is therefore considered a leading cause of physical injury, mental illness and adverse pregnancy outcome. A general antenatal screening policy has been advocated, though compliance with such guidelines tends to be low. We therefore attempted to identify potential barriers to IPV screening in a context where no guidelines have been instigated yet.


      Questionnaire-based Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice survey among obstetrician-gynaecologists in Flanders, Belgium (n = 478).


      The response rate was 52.1% (249/478). Gynaecologists prove rather unfamiliar with IPV and therefore largely underestimate the extent of the problem. Merely 6.8% (17/249) of the respondents ever received or pursued any kind of education on IPV. Accordingly they do feel insufficiently skilled to deal with IPV, yet sufficiently capable of recognizing IPV among their patients. Survey participants largely refute the incentive of universal screening in favour of opportunistic screening and do not consider pregnancy as a window of opportunity for routine screening. They do consider screening for IPV as an issue of medical liability and therefore do not suffer from a lack of motivation to screen. In addition, obstetrician-gynaecologists do believe that screening for IPV may be an effective means to counteract abusive behaviours. Yet, their outcome expectancy is weighed down by their perceived lack of self-efficacy in dealing with IPV, by lack of familiarity with referral procedures and by their perceived lack of available referral services. Major external or patient-related barriers to IPV screening included a perceived lack of time and fear of offending or insulting patients. Overall, merely 8.4 % (21/245) of gynaecologists in this survey performed some kind of IPV questioning on a regular basis. Finally, physician education was found to be the strongest predictor of a positive attitude towards screening and of current screening practices.


      Endorsement of physician training on IPV is an important first step towards successful implementation of screening guidelines for IPV. Additional introduction of enabling and reinforcement strategies such as screening tools, patient leaflets, formal referral pathways, and physician feedback may further enhance compliance with screening recommendations and guidelines.

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      Most cited references 41

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      Why Don't Physicians Follow Clinical Practice Guidelines?

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        Childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and the risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span: findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.

        Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, but identifying persons at risk is difficult. Thus, the US surgeon general has made suicide prevention a national priority. An expanding body of research suggests that childhood trauma and adverse experiences can lead to a variety of negative health outcomes, including attempted suicide among adolescents and adults. To examine the relationship between the risk of suicide attempts and adverse childhood experiences and the number of such experiences (adverse childhood experiences [ACE] score). A retrospective cohort study of 17 337 adult health maintenance organization members (54% female; mean [SD] age, 57 [15.3] years) who attended a primary care clinic in San Diego, Calif, within a 3-year period (1995-1997) and completed a survey about childhood abuse and household dysfunction, suicide attempts (including age at first attempt), and multiple other health-related issues. Self-reported suicide attempts, compared by number of adverse childhood experiences, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; household substance abuse, mental illness, and incarceration; and parental domestic violence, separation, or divorce. The lifetime prevalence of having at least 1 suicide attempt was 3.8%. Adverse childhood experiences in any category increased the risk of attempted suicide 2- to 5-fold. The ACE score had a strong, graded relationship to attempted suicide during childhood/adolescence and adulthood (P<.001). Compared with persons with no such experiences (prevalence of attempted suicide, 1.1%), the adjusted odds ratio of ever attempting suicide among persons with 7 or more experiences (35.2%) was 31.1 (95% confidence interval, 20.6-47.1). Adjustment for illicit drug use, depressed affect, and self-reported alcoholism reduced the strength of the relationship between the ACE score and suicide attempts, suggesting partial mediation of the adverse childhood experience-suicide attempt relationship by these factors. The population-attributable risk fractions for 1 or more experiences were 67%, 64%, and 80% for lifetime, adult, and childhood/adolescent suicide attempts, respectively. A powerful graded relationship exists between adverse childhood experiences and risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span. Alcoholism, depressed affect, and illicit drug use, which are strongly associated with such experiences, appear to partially mediate this relationship. Because estimates of the attributable risk fraction caused by these experiences were large, prevention of these experiences and the treatment of persons affected by them may lead to progress in suicide prevention.
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          Do practice guidelines guide practice? The effect of a consensus statement on the practice of physicians.

          Guidelines for medical practice can contribute to improved care only if they succeed in moving actual practice closer to the behaviors the guidelines recommend. To assess the effect of such guidelines, we surveyed hospitals and obstetricians in Ontario before and after the release of a widely distributed and nationally endorsed consensus statement recommending decreases in the use of cesarean sections. These surveys, along with discharge data from hospitals reflecting actual practice, revealed that most obstetricians (87 to 94 percent) were aware of the guidelines and that most (82.5 to 85 percent) agreed with them. Attitudes toward the use of cesarean section were congruent with the recommendations even before their release. One third of the hospitals and obstetricians reported changing their practice as a consequence of the guidelines, and obstetricians reported rates of cesarean section in women with a previous cesarean section that were significantly reduced, in keeping with the recommendations (from 72.2 percent to 61.1 percent; P less than 0.01). The surveys also showed, however, that knowledge of the content of the recommendations was poor (67 percent correct responses). Furthermore, data on actual practice after the publication of the guidelines showed that the rates of cesarean section were 15 to 49 percent higher than the rates reported by obstetricians, and they showed only a slight change from the previous upward trend. We conclude that guidelines for practice may predispose physicians to consider changing their behavior, but that unless there are other incentives or the removal of disincentives, guidelines may be unlikely to effect rapid change in actual practice. We believe that incentives should operate at the local level, although they may include system-wide economic changes.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
            [2 ]International Center for Reproductive Health, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
            BMC Public Health
            BMC Public Health
            BioMed Central (London )
            26 September 2006
            : 6
            : 238
            Copyright © 2006 Roelens et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

            Research Article

            Public health


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