One in 10 heavily pregnant women say their husbands or partners physically or emotionally abuse them, according to a survey. The results of the Hong Kong University poll brought a warning that such mistreatment could be a forerunner of domestic violence or even a family tragedy. The survey found that expectant mothers who required social support, such as social security and child-care services, are three times more likely to suffer abuse than those who did not. The university interviewed 2,975 women who were seven to nine months' pregnant between July and this month. Eight per cent of expectant mothers said they were abused emotionally by their husbands or partners while about 3 per cent said they suffered physical or sexual abuse. Leung Wing-cheong, a consultant with the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Kwong Wah Hospital, said the problem was serious although the figures were close to ones recorded in western countries such as the United States and Britain. 'Pregnant women are particularly fragile both physically and emotionally. One out of 10 claiming they were mistreated is quite a high ratio,' he said. Dr Leung said women who endured emotional abuse were twice as likely to suffer from post-natal depression. Edward Chan Ko-ling, assistant professor of the university's department of social work and social administration, said pregnant women in other developed countries were offered help, whereas in Hong Kong the issue was never given much attention. He stressed that society should not neglect the possible consequences following violence against pregnant women. 'Pregnancy symbolises the start of a family. If parents resort to intimidation or violence to channel their unhappiness, you may well imagine family tragedies may be a possible end of the story,' he said.