Sexually abused women and breastfeeding

Student thesis: Master programme thesis

  • Malene Sten Holmboe
4. term, Master of Sexology (Continuing education) (Continuing Education Programme (Master))
Background: Many women who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood do not disclose to midwives or other healthcare professionals this abuse during their pregnancy, labour or postpartum period. The impact of the abuse may, among other issues, create significant trouble in breastfeeding. Due to this impact is it important to focus on the subject. The aim of this study was to explore problems that sexually abused women in Denmark experience in relation to breastfeeding, and how midwives in the Danish antenatal/maternity care program can best help these women in regards to breastfeeding or the decision not to breastfeed.
Methods: The study was based on qualitative interviews with three sexually abused women and includes background information from other studies of sexually abused women, along with theory on coping and stigmatization.
Results: Sexually abused women experience many issues in relation to breastfeeding such as loss of control, flashbacks, dissociation, feeling as though they are committing abuse while breastfeeding, and perceiving themselves as different from women who have not been sexually abused. Despite these issues, these women are determined to breastfeed as they see a connection between breastfeeding and being a good mother.
Conclusions: Midwives and other health care professionals need to be aware of the impacts of sexual abuse on breastfeeding, and should inquire with every patient during their pregnancy about any sexual abuse. The women must feel accepted when meeting the healthcare professionals and should be informed of the potential impacts of sexual abuse in relation to breastfeeding. Information regarding sexual abuse must be documented in a patient’s medical record so maternity health care professionals can follow up with the patient and make individual considerations while helping with breastfeeding.
Publication date10 May 2015
ID: 211248489