Guest Author - Suzanne Gregory
Murder is the leading cause of death for pregnant women.
Violence affects as many as 324,000 pregnant women each year, with only 4-8% of women reporting violence during pregnancy. Women experiencing abuse during pregnancy come from all backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstances.
It is most common for the abuse to come from the father of the baby the woman is carrying or by family members disapproving of the pregnancy. Some women experiencing abuse in their relationship become pregnant in the hopes that it will stop the violence. Unfortunately, that is never the case.
Abuse during pregnancy can be but is not limited to:
-Threats of violence to pregnant woman and/or unborn baby, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, coercion to abort pregnancy, & sexual abuse.
-Risks to the pregnancy as a result of abuse include:
-Miscarriage/Stillbirth of the unborn baby
-Blunt force trauma to the abdomen
-Hemorrhage (including placental separation)
-Premature rupture of the membranes (breaking of water) making birth imminent
-Low birth weight
-late term or self abortion
Common signs of abuse include but are not limited to:
-Delay in seeking prenatal care
-Lack of attendance to prenatal education classes
-Unexplained bruising or damage to the womanís breasts or abdomen
-Trouble maintaining prenatal appointments
-Withdraw from family and friends
-Continued use of products harmful to pregnancy such as cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol
Often family members and physicians find themselves blocked by barriers in determining who has suffered abuse. Some of these are:
-Lack of family or fear of shame
-Fear of retaliation from the violent partner
-lack of knowledge about viable alternatives to money and housing issues
-lack of contact with pregnant family member or friends
What many pregnant women who are being abused donít know is that there is help.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Go to the nearest police or fire station, and if you are hurt go to a local hospital emergency room.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TDD). The hotline offers help in many languages 24 hours a day, every day. Hotline staff can give you the phone numbers of local shelters and other resources.