Pregnancy and Domestic Violence
In an average day, 28,800 people in the United States experience domestic violence.
The United Methodist Church highly values human dignity. We live by Jesus’ example. He not only listened and spoke to those society ignored and abused, but also showed them love and kindness, often healing them so that they could rejoin society and regain their dignity.
There are more than 10 million abuse victims annually whose dignity is stripped from them. That means there are also millions of people who are dehumanizing children of God and many complacent bystanders.
Some of the people who experience violence are pregnant women. In the U.S., over 320,000 pregnant women experience domestic violence each year. These women often experience domestic violence for the first time, or the domestic violence they have been experiencing escalates. When a pregnant woman is abused, it endangers both her wellbeing and the wellbeing of the child she is carrying, both before and after birth.
Abuse, in general, is shown to cause an increase in alcohol and drug use and abuse, which can have dire consequences during pregnancy. People who are abused are also more likely to smoke resulting in more harmful health effects for the child. When a pregnant woman is abused, the chances of her skipping her prenatal care appointments increases. In addition to the physical injuries, the mother will likely suffer from depression, have difficulty attaching to her child, or even not attach at all. People who are abused have an increased risk of both suicide and homicide, which, in the case of a pregnant woman, profoundly affects both her and her child, even if she waits until after the child is born.
What about the effects on the child? Abuse towards a pregnant woman has the potential to harm the child in utero causing any of the following: low birth weight, preterm labor/delivery, complications during delivery, or miscarriage. Even if the mother’s abuse does not physically harm the child, it has been shown that high levels of stress during pregnancy can cause the child to have behavioral issues later in life.
What can be done?
Raising awareness and educating about:
- the prevalence of domestic violence.
- the signs and various aspects of domestic violence.
- the resources available for domestic violence.
- the effects of toxic masculinity, what healthy masculinity is and how to help promote it.
- the effects of engaging men as allies with women.
- how different cultures and societies react to domestic violence, and whether a community is inclined to trust or mistrust authority figures.
- local medical providers to be trained to identify the signs, symptoms and prevalence of abuse, as well as the resources available for victims of domestic violence.
- programs like mobile maternal and child health units.
- local and national levels of government to pass laws that prevent abuse, protect victims and survivors of abuse, and hold perpetrators accountable.
- local law enforcement to be trained on cultural aspects that may make it difficult to protect a victim from abuse and prosecute the abuser.
To learn more about The United Methodist Church and maternal health with our Saving Mothers’ Lives Toolkit.
There are specific resources available to help connect people with the resources they need. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Other resources and information can be found at ncadv.org.