Domestic Violence in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the wondrous time in a woman’s life when she is privileged to nurture new life. She glows with excitement as the weeks pass. The anticipation of meeting her little angel face fills her with joy. Each new kick brings joy and trepidation. There are books to read, support groups to join and a nursery to decorate. “Will I be ready?” “What will labor be like?” “Will he have my nose?” All are normal questions to ponder as her little darling’s arrival draws ever closer. Pregnancy should be a time of peace and safety. 

Amidst the plethora of books and websites offering tips and information on what to expect during this precious time, few help a woman understand or handle domestic violence during her pregnancy. 

Domestic violence is cited as a pregnancy complication more often than diabetes, hypertension or any other serious complication.[i] One out of six women reported the abuse actually commenced during the pregnancy, according to Centers for Disease Control. In the U.S. more than 300,000 women experience some kind of violence from their intimate partner during pregnancy. As the child’s birth approaches, the father feels more stress. This stress leads to frustration. Frustration is directed at his perceived source of stress, the mother and their unborn child. 

When women are abused by an intimate partner, they are at a higher risk for stress, depression and substance addictions. The effects of stress are challenging to isolate. They may include the mother’s general loss of interest in her and/or her baby’s well being during pregnancy and after.[ii]  There are long-term detrimental psychological consequences for the child. Compound this with the fact the child is very likely to witness and experience domestic violence during his childhood. 

It can be easy to stand on the sidelines and critique why a woman stays with her abuser. What many don’t understand are the variety of complex reasons she does. Like everything else in life, you have to walk in those shoes. There are economic pressures as abusers often control the finances. Being pregnant, she may be unable to secure a job. In healthy relationships pregnant women often feel vulnerable and fear being alone. Add domestic violence and she feels helpless and hopeless. Believe it or not there are still religious and cultural pressures to stay; families will coerce the woman. It is a difficult situation where known risks are balanced against the unknown. She will do whatever she can to reduce the damage. Sometimes, that means staying. This is a human conditioning we all do. Some women finally reach a point where the routine risks become intolerable. When this occurs, she needs warm, receptive and loving support. We need to be there, ready and willing to do whatever we can to help break the cycle of violence. She has to know the violence is NOT her fault and she cannot change her abuser. 

Domestic Violence is about power, one person using a pattern of behavior to control another. These include:

  • Pushing, slapping, kicking
  • Marital rape
  • Intimidation, threatening
  • Isolation
  • Suicide threats
  • Degradation 

A few physical effects of violence during pregnancy:

  • Insufficient weight gain    
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Abdominal trauma       
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Fetal bruising, fractures, hematomas 

If you are in an abusive relationship:

  • Have important numbers handy, in phonebook under false names or in some code
  • Make a safe plan of escape
  • Consider safer places in your home; where there are exits and no weapons. Try to get there when abuse is impending 

When you plan on leaving:

  • Plan safe places of escape
  • Open a bank account and/or get a credit card in your name
  • Try doing things to get out of the house: take out the trash, walk the dog, go to the store.
  • Mentally practice how you would leave
  • Prepare an emergency bag of everyday things and important documents. Hide it where it is easy to get to. Keep in mind there are situations when all you can do is leave with the clothes on your back. Things are replaceable, lives aren’t. Do what you have to in order to be safe. 

Speak up if you suspect someone is being abused! Are you hesitating, maybe telling yourself “It’s none of my business”, “I might be wrong”, or “She might not want to talk about it”?  When you express your concern you are letting her know you care. You may even save her life and her baby’s! 

Regina Rowley enjoys helping others and living a life where she makes a positive difference. She accomplishes this as a Women’s Group/Conference Speaker, teaching Smartsafe, a reality based self-defense for women, and as a blog writer. 

She may be contacted via her website:

www.ReginaRowley.com 

Please visit and follow:

www.KUTAEmpoweredWomen.wordpress.com for self-defense tips and information. 

 

Resources: http://www.paho.org/english/ad/ge/vawpregnancy.pdf   http://www.kcsdv.org/stats.html

http://www.babycenter.com/0_domestic-violence-during-pregnancy_1356253.bc


[i] “Battering and Pregnancy” Midwifery Today 19: 1998

[ii]Abuse of Pregnant Women and Adverse Birth Outcome” Journal of the American Medical Association 267: 1992

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What a Doula Can Do for Your Labor Day

By Rebecca Dundore, Gentle Hands Doula Services

The sacred event of childbirth is a defining moment in a woman’s life.  Past accomplishments will be dimmed and future ones will be compared to this day – her labor day.  As a pregnant woman prepares for her birthing day she is met with strong opinions from every corner.   Horror stories come creeping out from the dark corners.  Even people who have never given birth want to tell her what she should do. “Overwhelmed” does not even begin to describe the feeling that a new momma experiences as she is barraged by well intentioned, however misguided, advice.  Even before labor is on the horizon, a doula can become your anchor.  The doula focuses on helping you to get it all sorted out – to dismiss that nagging voice that really scared you or undermined your confidence.

As a doula for over five years, I’ve seen that prenatal support is nearly as important as labor support.  Giving birth is such a huge sacrifice.  It is an ultimate act of love and deserves respect and honor.  Having a doula for your birth is like having a wedding planner for your wedding.  You can have a wedding without a planner, and a birth without a doula, but the right one can reduce your stress level and enhance your experience.  We work together through prenatal visits, phone conversations and emails to bring you peace of mind as you prepare for a day that will be forever in your memory.  Your labor and birth should be something you look forward to, not dread and fear.  Having a doula will help you come to that place of inner strength and confidence where you can confront your fears and press on toward your goal.

When I’m preparing for a birth I always go through my doula bag.  I make sure I have all my massage tools and comfort props and that they are all clean and ready for use.  More importantly, I make sure that I’m rested and that the couple is prepared well.  My goal is to put both parents at ease – I want them to know that I’m on their team and not looking to come between them in any way.  I often show the partner how to use massage and other techniques to relieve pain.  Many partners have thanked me after a birth, stating that they could not have gotten through it without me.  With my encouragement and support, they were able to attend to their partner in a more meaningful way.  Studies have shown that the partner is more emotionally involved in the whole process if they are supported by a doula, even if it is not their first child.

A good doula is primarily concerned with supporting the laboring couple’s needs.  She does not demand that you go all “natural”.  She isn’t there to monitor your health or your progress.  She’s there to be an emotional life-line for both of you.  She’s there to support your wishes, to help you reach your goals, and to provide ideas for laboring well, etc.

In labor, women often find they need a beacon to guide them through the harder times.  A doula can be that lighthouse.  Women who have doula support are far less likely to need medical interventions during labor – and they recover faster too.  Even the baby is less likely to stay in the hospital for a prolonged time when the mother has had a doula!  Women need other women to mother and nurture them into motherhood. Labor is also a major athletic event and warrants the use of a coach and a cheerleader.  To have a guardian of your birthing day is your right.  The doula does not do what your doctor, midwife or nurse does.  Her job is uniquely focused on your emotional well being and your physical support.  You deserve it!