en English

Domestic Abuse During Pregnancy

Overview

Deciding if and when to have a child with your partner is probably the biggest decision you’ll make in your entire lifetime. This decision can be extremely challenging when you are with a partner who is controlling and manipulative.

Pregnancy and parenthood can cause physical, emotional, financial and social changes, and therefore it is understandable to want reliable and stable partners for support during this transitional time.

Unfortunately, some abusers use this transition as an opportunity to gain or maintain power and control through tactics known as reproductive coercion. These tactics can play out differently in every relationship and may seem confusing.

​In healthy relationships, you’re able to talk to your partner openly about your feelings and having children, without fearing retaliation from your partner if you disagree about the timing or the decision to have a child or more children.

Different feelings and desires may lead to a mutual decision to end the relationship, which may be difficult but it wouldn’t cause concern for your safety. If you feel afraid to disagree with your partner’s wishes about pregnancy or if and when to have children, this could be an indication that you are in an abusive relationship.

​Whatever your decisions are remember that you deserve to have an opinion and you should feel safe whilst discussing your feelings and opinions with your partner.

​If you’re finding that it is difficult to safely share your opinions and discuss your thoughts with your partner, you may want turn to your GP, a member of your family or a friend for a perspective on your decisions.

​If you are thinking of having a baby or you are in the early weeks of pregnancy, you may want to consider reaching out to a healthcare provider, such as a midwife, nurse or your GP, to learn more about how to take care of your health needs during this time. You can also discuss with them, your plan for getting the supportive care that allows space for you to share your needs or concerns with them, without your partner being present in the room.

​Another part of a support network may be a counsellor or therapist, someone who you can trust to be supportive and non-judgmental as you talk about your feelings and concerns and about having children with your partner.

Trusted family members and friends may also be able to offer you support, whatever your plans and decisions may be. It can also help to get more information from trusted sources who’ll give you a full range of options that are available for pregnancy and parenting.

​Whist exploring resources and putting together your support network, it’s important to consider your partner may be trying to monitor your activities. You may want to reach out for support on a phone or computer that your partner can’t access. You may want to use a computer at your library to explore online resources instead of a computer or mobile phone that your partner can gain access to and monitor.

​Parenting decisions are huge, and you deserve access to the support and information which can help you choose the options that are and feel best for you.

​You are the expert in your situation and you are the one who is best suited to make choices and decisions, and what ever you decide remember “We at Rehouse to Rehome always respect your decisions and we are always here for you, every step of the way!”

Keeping Physically, Emotionally & Financially Safe During Pregnancy

We often think of pregnancy as a happy and magical time in our life, however with the associated physical, emotional, social, and financial changes, pregnancy can be challenging, even when we are with a supportive partner in a healthy relationship.

​An abusive partner may see the unpredictability of pregnancy as an opportunity to increase power and control over you. If you are pregnant it’s important to explore all options to enhance your physical, emotional, financial and legal safety.

​As your pregnancy progresses your physical safety needs may change, what may have seemed safe at one point may not feel that way a few weeks later.

Getting prenatal care may be a way to maintain both yours and your baby’s health during this time.

During pregnancy, your center of gravity shifts and joints loosen to allow for easier childbirth. This can make getting around and daily activities more difficult. If you live with an abusive partner consider mapping out the safest routes to exit your home from rooms where you spend the most time. It’s important to try and avoid rooms with sharp objects or weapons, hard surfaces and areas near stairs. If it’s becoming difficult to drive, consider identifying the people who you trust that you can contact if you need transportation. Keeping a taxi or bus fare in a packed bag may be another way to get out of your home quickly if needed.

Protecting and maintaining your emotional energy during your pregnancy is important and it is closely linked to physical safety, as stress can adversely impact pregnancy. Some people use prenatal yoga, walking, swimming, keeping a journal, art or spending time with family and friends as part of their self care routines. Creating social connections with other parents can be particularly important during pregnancy, you could ask your midwife or GP about classes or groups that are available for expecting parents.

​Pregnancy is also a time when financial and legal options may begin to change. Knowing your rights around these issues is important for protecting yourself and your new child. While workplaces may differ in their support for pregnant employees, there are certain employment laws that must be followed.

​We all have a right to protect ourselves, and our suggestions may vary, they’re not meant to serve as a guarantee or a direction.

“Here at Rehouse to Rehome we believe that you are the only expert in your situation. If you like any of our suggestions or ideas you may want use them, change them or expand on them, tailoring our suggestions to your choice, for your happiness and individual needs creating your pro-active plan.”

Planning a Safe Child Birth

For many first time parents the birth of their child is an exciting yet a frightening event. While there are many ways to prepare yourself for the birth of your baby everyone has different versions of their perfect birth. Some people create a birth plan to outline what they would like to happen during and immediately following their baby’s birth. A birth plan may include safety measures if you are concerned about the role of an abusive partner during the birth. When creating your birth plan, consider the options that you have available during your baby’s birth.

If you plan to give birth at a hospital, doctors and nurses will likely be present during most of your labor process. If you are giving birth at a birthing center or your home, you may have a midwife present. Depending on your prenatal care options, you may have been able to inform these professionals about any concerns you have about anything including abuse. Talking to your midwife or GP, explaining your needs for a birth plan for safety may be something you want to do.

​You may want a doula for support during birth. Birth doulas provide support at hospitals, birth centers or home births, unlike a doctor or nurse who may be supporting several patients and present for only certain parts of your labour, your doula will stay with you throughout your entire labour process. Doulas may not have training in domestic abuse or supporting someone who is experiencing abuse, you still may be able to reach out to them for added support during your labour. If you don’t have a birth doula, you may want to identify a family member or friend to take on the role of labor support. When considering who to ask to be your labour support, keep in mind that you may want someone who will work with you as opposed for you.

Childbirth requires a lot of energy and focus. Even if you have a c-section planned in advance, that is a major surgery and deserves your full attention. No matter your chosen birth plan, it’s important that you are able to fully access your reserves without having any distractions. If you feel like your abusive partner or ex-partner will attempt to prevent you from taking the necessary steps for a safe and stress-free birth, consider adding strategies to your birth plan that will refocus and energise you. Different strategies work for different people, so practice these in advance to see which is most effective for you. These can include movement exercises, breathing exercises, guided meditation or relaxation narratives, listening or singing to music and repeating positive affirmations. The key is that you are able to stay relaxed and positive throughout your pregnancy.

If you have left a relationship, or you go into labour while your partner isn’t present, you may determine that by preventing them from finding out that you are giving birth is the safest option for you and your child. You may be able to do this by alerting your labour support person when you go into labour, and make sure that they know not to share your information with anyone else. When determining where you will give birth, you may want to consider whether your partner or ex partner knows your due date, if so will they try reaching out to hospitals in the area, birth centers or your support network to try and find you. Once you determine your plan, make the staff aware at the hospital or place where you give birth, of your plan in case someone tries asking or looking for you, give staff a picture of your partner/ex, and ask that staff alert you if anyone matching the description is reported in the area. If you are giving birth outside your home, you may want to take a taxi or have a family member or friend take you in a vehicle that your partner/ex will not recognise.

​When you leave the facility, ask your labour support to check the car park to ensure that your partner/ex is not waiting for you. While it is understandable that you would want to share information of your baby’s birth via social media networks, consider safety before sharing status’s updates or information. Pictures online can often be viewed by friends of friends, even if the abuser is blocked. If family member or friends visit, ask them to wait before posting any photos that they take with you or your baby until you’ve safely returned home.

You may need to have a pro-active plan for staying safe with the abuser present during labour. Creating activities to occupy your partner like asking them to contact family and friends or pick up items for you, if they are distracting you can be one strategy to create space for you to relax and focus. As part of your safety measures in your birth plan, you could determine a secret code word to use with your doctor, nurse, midwife, doula or other labour support to alert them if you are feeling unsafe and would like someone to be removed from the room. You could also have a friend or family member stay with your partner to prevent them from interrupting your focus during childbirth. Planning strategies ahead of time is key because you will want and need your full energy to go towards ensuring a safe and peaceful birth for you and your baby. Even if your partner has limited your birth planning options, you may be able to mentally prepare yourself by researching childbirth and making a personal safety or self care plan for each stage.

​Obtaining access to a phone to dial 999 in the case that your partner has prohibited you to leave the home to have your baby may be one part of an emergency safety plan. Identifying a room where you feel most safe in your home to give birth, and preparing in advance with the items and materials that you will need is another strategy to reduce stress during labour without external support.

“Whatever your circumstances or needs, Rehouse to Rehome are here to support you in any way that we can, whether that’s helping you identify local options and services that are available or our suggestions that may help you enhance your safety with a pro-active plan that helps you maintain your reserves for childbirth, or provide you with emotional support and validation during your last phase of pregnancy.”

The Details

Domestic abuse in pregnancy

If your partner is violent

One in four women experiences domestic abuse or domestic violence at some point in their lives. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial, and is often a combination of these types.

Pregnancy can be a trigger for domestic abuse, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Domestic abuse during pregnancy puts you and your unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, and injury or death to the baby.

It can also cause women to experience emotional and mental health problems, such as stress and anxiety, which can affect the development of the baby.

Getting help

If you’re pregnant and being abused, there is help available. You can speak in confidence to a:

  • GP
  • midwife
  • obstetrician
  • health visitor
  • social worker

Information about you won’t be shared with other services without your permission, unless there’s a concern that your unborn child or other children in your family, or someone else, is at risk of serious harm.

You can also get support from:

Find out more about getting help if you’re experiencing domestic abuse.

You should call 999 if you’re in immediate danger.

Pregnancy brings big changes to your life, especially if this is your first baby. Some people find it easier to cope with these changes than others do. Everybody is different.

Your feelings

Even if you feel excited about having your baby, it’s also common to feel more vulnerable and anxious while pregnant.

If feeling down or anxious is affecting your everyday life, tell a midwife. You do not have to have a particular mental health problem to be offered help dealing with worrying thoughts or feelings.

The healthtalk website has video and written interviews of women talking about their emotions in pregnancy.

Find out more about mental health problems and pregnancy.

Your relationship

It’s quite common for couples to have arguments sometimes during pregnancy, even when they’re looking forward to having the baby.

Some arguments may have nothing to do with the pregnancy, but others may be caused by one of you feeling worried about the future and how you’re going to cope.

It’s important to realise that during pregnancy there are understandable reasons for occasional difficulty between you, and good reasons for feeling closer and more loving.

Domestic abuse

If your relationship is abusive or violent, get help. There are organisations that can help, such as Women’s Aid, which works to keep women and children safe.

Find out more about getting help for domestic abuse.

Support in labour

Many partners want to be present at their baby’s birth. It can help to find out about your birth options, including where you can give birth.

You can also read the page on what your birth partner can do to support you, which suggests some ways your partner can help and what it can mean for them to share this experience.

It may be that you do not have a partner during this pregnancy, and you need extra support from family or friends. You may wish to talk to a midwife about some of the services that are available.

Family and friends

Pregnancy is a special time for you and your partner, and there may be lots of other people around to support you, such as your parents, sisters, brothers and friends.

People can offer help in all sorts of ways, and you’ll probably be glad to have their support. But sometimes it can feel like they’re taking over.

If this is how you feel, talk about it. It may help if you gently explain that there are some decisions only you and your partner can make, and some things you prefer to do on your own.

The important thing is to decide what is right for you. After all, it is your pregnancy and your baby.

Find out more about your relationships after having a baby.

Having a baby if you’re on your own

If you’re pregnant and on your own, it can be helpful to have supportive people around you, such as friends.

Making decisions, whether personal or medical, can be difficult when you’re by yourself. If you’re struggling, it’s better to find someone to talk to rather than letting problems make you feel down.

Meet other single parents

It can be encouraging to meet other mums who also went through pregnancy on their own.

Gingerbread is a self-help organisation for single-parent families. It has a network of local groups and can give you information and advice. The charity can also put you in touch with other parents in a similar situation to you.

Visit the Gingerbread online forum or call the free helpline 0808 802 0925 (Mondays 10am to 6pm; Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays 10am to 4pm; Wednesday 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm).

Ask someone you trust to support you during the birth

If you do not have a partner that does not mean you have to go to antenatal visits by yourself or cope with labour on your own. You can take whoever you like, such as a friend, sister, or perhaps your mum.

Involve your birth partner in antenatal classes if you can, and let them know what you want. It may help to discuss your birth plan with them so they understand your wishes for labour.

You can also ask a midwife if there are antenatal classes in your area that are especially for single people.

Plan ahead

Think about how you’ll manage after the birth. Will there be people around to help and support you?

If there’s nobody who can give you support, it might help to discuss your situation with a social worker. A midwife can refer you, or you can contact your local council.

Money and housing

If money is an immediate concern, find out more about the maternity leave and benefits you’re entitled to claim. Your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice service can advise you.

If you have a housing problem, contact your local Citizens Advice or your local housing advice centre. You can find the contact details on your local council’s website or at a local library.

Gingerbread can also supply information on a range of topics, from benefits to home maintenance. There may be a local support group in your area – ask a midwife or health visitor.

You might be eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant, or Healthy Start vouchers for free milk, vegetables and vitamins.

(NHS)

 

Websites for further support and information

Videos related to Domestic Abuse During Pregnancy

Why am I being asked about domestic abuse? | NHS

learn more

Mothers First: Domestic Abuse During Pregnancy

learn more

Love Hurts | Domestic Abuse Pregnancy Short Film

learn more

Abuse in Pregnancy - Its Never OK!

learn more