Pregnancy does not offer protection from domestic violence as during pregnancy and after the birth of a new baby are some of the highest risk periods for women. International research has found that 30% of women who experience domestic violence are physically assaulted for the first time during pregnancy (Child Protection and Welfare Handbook, HSE, 2011).
Domestic violence during pregnancy is prevalent. Research conducted in the Rotunda Hospital in 2000 found that 1 in 8 women surveyed had been abused during their current pregnancy.(HSE Practice Guide on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, 2012).
In 2019, Women's Aid heard 139 disclosures of assaults of women who were pregnant at the time, with a number of women experiencing miscarriage because of the abuse. Every year, we hear from women who were beaten and raped while they were pregnant, which often resulted in miscarriage. We have also heard from pregnant women whose abuser deliberately targeted their stomach, women who were raped following child birth and women who were beaten while holding or trying to protect their baby. Other examples of abuse during the post-natal period include women not being allowed, or being forced to give up breastfeeding and pre-mature removal of stitches.
The World Health Organisation cite homicide and suicide as the most extreme consequences of intimate partner violence during pregnancy. They say that intimate partner violence during pregnancy is a risk factor for women’s increased risk of being killed by an intimate partner and although the link needs to be explored further, there is evidence to show that men who abuse their partners during pregnancy and more likely to commit homicide. Non-fatal outcomes of intimate partner violence during pregnancy are significant. They include the child being a low birth weight, being born prematurely and insufficient weight gain. There may also obstetric complications as a result of the abuse (World Health Organisation, 2011).
The HSE has information and advice about domestic violence available here.
Click here to find out more about the effects of domestic violence on women and new born infants.