Domestic Violence and Pregnancy

89680462The recent news of a young pregnant woman from Warren, who was abducted, shot, and then set on fire by her ex-boyfriend has shocked all of us. This appears to be a targeted killing of a young woman and her unborn child. Thankfully, she survived. While the viciousness of this attack is rare, domestic violence during pregnancy is not.

Homicide is the leading cause of traumatic death for pregnant and postpartum women in the United States. Each year, about 324,000 or 4% of pregnant women in this country are battered by their intimate partners. That makes abuse more common for pregnant women than gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, a complication of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Also, unintended or forced pregnancies are 2 to 3 times likely to be associated with abuse than an intended pregnancy.

So why does battering begin or increase during pregnancy? Pregnancy is a time when women are more physically vulnerable and more dependent on their support system as they prepare for motherhood. Her attention is focused on her unborn child’s needs, her physical well being and health. Some men, who batter, may feel jealous or anger toward the unborn child for the diversion of her attention toward the child. Or for some pregnancy makes no difference and they continue to use physical violence and other tactics to maintain their control regardless of the pregnancy.

Approximately 8% of the women coming to Turning Point’s shelter are pregnant when they arrive. Most will deliver that child while in shelter. Women who are battered during pregnancy have high rates of miscarriages, babies with low birth rates and post pregnancy complications. This is not the way any child should begin their life! OBGYN doctors are now beginning to screen for domestic violence during their checkups, a promising intervention to decrease the rates of domestic violence during pregnancy.