Guest Author - Jeanette Stingley
If there is domestic violence in a relationship, the abuse usually continues through pregnancy and sometimes gets worse during the pregnancy. Both times I was pregnant with my children, abuse got worse. It is amazing my children were born healthy and alive.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more then 300,000 women every year experience some form of domestic violence while pregnant. Another statistic from the CDC states 1 out of 6 women have reported violence beginning while pregnancy. If you were abused before pregnancy then he stops while you are pregnant doesn’t mean this will be the end of the abuse for good. He will likely abuse you again and in turn abuse the baby.
The first time I left my abuser, I found out I was pregnant about 2 weeks after he moved out. I was too scared to try to raise the baby on my own and I was one of those victims who thought having a child would change him. For my first trimester things were great. He was affectionate, compassionate, and a true gentleman. I began experiencing morning sickness all the time during my fourth month. I was sick all of the time. He saw this as a waste of food and I was lazy because I had no energy. He withheld food from me and would scream at me for not cleaning the apartment. Even a talk from my midwife about morning sickness wasn’t good enough for him. She was a woman; of course she would take my side.
After childbirth, abuse subsided for about six months then started again until I left with the baby eighteen months later. Abuse during pregnancy is not limited to hitting and punching. Name calling, sexual assault including rape, restricting you from contact with family and/or friends, causing you to miss doctor appointments, or even threatening to hurt you physically to hurt the baby is all domestic violence. If you live in fear, are being controlled, or are under constant stress, you may cause damage to your unborn child.
Studies on newborn babies whose mothers were abused during pregnancy have shown low birth weight and premature babies, fetal injuries that can lead to miscarriage or death after birth from injuries sustained. Since a woman’s organs are compacted by an expanding uterus, damage to internal organs are more likely to happen if hit in the abdomen.
Abuse can even spill over into the labor and delivery room. He may try to control her decisions about pain intervention. He may even demand the doctor to “fix” her vagina to a pre-birth state.
If you are being abused and pregnant, you need to get out before it is too late. Simply speaking to your health care provider is the first step. They may have contact with someone who can help you that day. They will have resources to pass along to you. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 for referrals. You can even e-mail me and I can help find resources. Getting out now shows your first act of love for your child.