Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland

24 Hour Domestic Violence Helpline
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  Booklet Contents


pregnantwomanDomestic Violence and Pregnancy

Research has shown that domestic violence often manifests for the first time or increases in severity during pregnancy. The number of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies and terminations is higher among women experiencing domestic violence. Abused women have a higher rate of miscarriage, stillbirths, premature labour, haemorrhaging, low birth weight babies and injuries to the foetus including fractures. Other immediate effects on pregnancy include:


• Rupture of uterine, liver or spleen

• Premature rupture of the membranes

• Vaginal bleeding

• Exacerbation of chronic illness

• Blunt trauma to the abdomen

• Complications during labour

• Foetal injury/death.


The Department of Health -A Resource Manual for Healthcare Professionals and the ‘Why Mothers Die ’ Report both indicate that a screening process conducted by health professionals is essential for identification of pregnant women at risk of domestic violence. This will be most effective when conducted by midwives initially at the booking in visit and on at least one other occasion during pregnancy. This can also be carried out at the general practice. Where patients receive private ante-natal services the screening process should be conducted by the consultant obstetrician responsible for the patient ’s care. Agencies and professionals who come into contact with pregnant women should always use the screening process, as far is appropriate when:


They are aware that the patient/client is pregnant.


There is reasonable cause to believe that she is experiencing domestic violence (see indicators of abuse.)


In a Northern Ireland study, 60% of 127 women resident in Women ’s Aid refuges experienced domestic violence during pregnancy. 13%of these women lost their babies as a result of this violence.


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Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland