Pregnancy and Abuse: How to Stay Safe for Your 9 Months
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 people who are expecting get the support needed for a safe, healthy pregnancy.
If the Abuse Is Increasing or Just Starting — Why Now?
According to the CDC, more than one in three women in the United States has experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Pregnancy can be an especially dangerous time for people 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 survivor’s fault, and none of these are excuses. There is no excuse for abuse.
Abuse of any kind during pregnancy can put a person and their unborn child at heightened risk, because a pregnant person 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 the risk of hemorrhaging, a uterine rupture, pre-term birth, complications during labor or miscarriage later in the pregnancy.
What Can You Do?
Many pregnant people frequently see their doctors for prenatal care. These doctor’s visits can be an opportunity to discuss what is going on in your relationship. Whether or not you choose to tell a professional about the abuse, or how much you choose to disclose, is completely your choice. However, the doctor’s job is to focus on the wellbeing of you and your child, so this could be a safe time to talk about any concerns.
If your partner goes to these appointments with you, try to find a moment when they’re out of the room to ask your care provider (or even the front desk receptionist) about coming up with an excuse to talk to them one-on-one. The doctor’s office can also be a quiet place to make a phone call to The Hotline. If you’ve decided to leave your relationship, a health care provider can become an active participant in your plan to leave.
Additionally, under the Affordable Care Act, all new and non-grandfathered health plans must cover screening and counseling for domestic violence — considering these to be preventive care services.
Here at The Hotline, our advocates are also available 24/7 to help you plan how to stay safe during your pregnancy — both physically and emotionally. Physical safety planning could include tips for when the fighting starts, for example, such as protecting your abdomen and staying on the bottom floor in a house with stairs.
Pregnancy can be a challenging time, and it can feel hurtful if your partner isn’t being supportive, is putting you down or physically harming you. It’s important to develop ways to take care of yourself during such an important stage of your life — and we can help.
Answers shouldn’t be hard to find.
We're here to help!