Pregnancy and Family Violence
Did you know?
In 2006, a Statistics Canada report stated that 21 per cent of abused women were assaulted during pregnancy.1 Many women first experience physical violence while they are pregnant.2 There can be many reasons for this and the abuser may feel:
- Competition for attention – the baby is seen as an intruder into the relationship and triggers the abuser’s jealousy and feelings of abandonment.
- Added stress and pressure about financial concerns.
- Loss of power and control. The abuser may resent contact with others. Pregnancy may be a threat to a controlling, abusive partner who believes the woman could be influenced each time she sees a health care provider.
- Dislike of physical and emotional pregnancy changes.
Forms Of Abuse During Pregnancy
Physical abuse (hitting, punching, kicking) and emotional abuse (name calling, threats) may occur during pregnancy. An abusive partner may also target the pregnant woman’s abdomen to inflict injury or with the intent of causing her to lose the baby. The abuser may also:
- Control, limit, delay or deny her access to prenatal care.
- Use her pregnancy as a weapon of emotional abuse by:
- Refusing physical affection because her pregnant body is “unattractive” to the abuser.
- Denying that the baby is the abuser’s.
- Refusing to provide support during the pregnancy or birth.
- Refuse to provide the finances to buy food or supplies.
- Restrict her access to food.
- Force her to work beyond her endurance during pregnancy.
- Try to control birthing decisions – use of pain medication or other interventions during labour and delivery.
Impact Of Abuse During Pregnancy
Being abused during pregnancy can seriously affect a woman’s health and well-being and that of her baby by causing:
- Pre-term labour and delivery
- Fetal death
- Direct fetal injury
- Rupture of the uterus, spleen, diaphragm and liver
- Increased stress which can increase blood pressure
- Decreased blood flow to the uterus and fetus
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Low birth weight
Women who experience violence during pregnancy are also at continued or increased risk of experiencing violence once the baby is born.
How To Get Help
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
Help is available.
- Tell someone you trust, like a family member, friend, neighbour, co-worker or faith leader.
- Talk to your health care provider for information and support.
- For family violence resources in your community, phone the 24-hour Family Violence Info Line at 310-1818, toll-free in Alberta, or visit http://www.familyviolence.alberta.ca/. Help is available in over 170 languages.
1Canada. Health Canada. Responding to Abuse during Pregnancy - Information from the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Ottawa: Health Canada, 2001.
2Remainder of material is directly adapted from “Family Violence and Pregnancy” fact sheet developed by Woman Abuse and the PEI Justice System Research Team, 2004.