When Beth was 8 weeks pregnant, her boyfriend attacked her and killed their unborn child.
She believes her pregnancy provoked Jason’s further violence.
“We were together four years and he started being abusive after about six months. But it got worse when I was pregnant. I think it’s the fact that he felt he owned me more. He said ‘you can’t leave me now – look, you’d be a single mum’.”
Dr Heidi Stöckl, lecturer in gender violence at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said:
“It’s a hidden problem because you think of pregnancy as a wonderful time for family and a relationship, but, actually, a lot is changing at that time and violence is much more likely to occur. Antenatal care really is a window of opportunity to intervene and help. Women are more open to receiving help at that time and we can get women at most risk of severe violence” (The Independent).
Read Beth’s full story here (**trigger warning**).
According to Refuge, over 1/3 of domestic violence situations began or get worse while a woman is pregnant. “Domestic violence during pregnancy puts a pregnant woman and her unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, low birth weight, fetal injury and fetal death” (Domestic Violence and Pregnancy, also linked below).
Pregnancy is a time of change. If you’re pregnant, your life — and your body — starts taking on a new shape as you prepare to bring a little person into the world. Pregnancy can be full of excitement but also comes with an added need for support. It’s natural to need emotional support from a partner, as well as perhaps financial assistance, help to prepare for the baby and more.
If your partner is emotionally or physically destructive toward you, it can make these months of transition especially difficult. Thankfully, there are resources available to help expecting women get the support needed for a safe, healthy pregnancy.
According to the CDC, intimate partner violence affects approximately 1.5 million women each year and affects as many as 324,000 pregnant women each year. Pregnancy can be an especially dangerous time for women in abusive relationships, and abuse can often begin or escalate during the pregnancy.
Partners become abusive or increase the abuse during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Since abuse is based on power and control, it’s common that an abusive partner will become resentful and jealous that the attention is shifting from them to the pregnancy. They may be stressed at the thought of financially supporting a child, frustrated at the increased responsibilities or angry that their partner’s body is changing. None of this is the new mom’s fault and none of these are excuses. Nothing is an excuse for abuse.
Abuse of any kind during pregnancy can put a woman and her unborn child at heightened risk, because a pregnant woman is in a uniquely vulnerable position both physically and emotionally. If the abuse is physical, trauma can cause both immediate injury as well as increase her risk for hemorrhaging, a uterine rupture, pre-term birth, complications during labor or miscarriage later in the pregnancy (“Pregnancy and Abuse”, National Domestic Violence Hotline – US).