CARDIFF's ONE STOP SPECIALIST SERVICE FOR WOMEN EXPERIENCING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN PARTICULARLY DOMESTIC ABUSE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

WOMEN WHO ARE PREGNANT

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Increased risk of premature birth, foetal injury and foetal death

Domestic violence has been identified as a prime cause of miscarriage or still-birth and of maternal deaths during childbirth and within the six weeks following birth 11 new mothers were known to have been murdered my their male partners during 2000-02. As shocking is the knowledge that 14% of all the women who died during or immediately after pregnancy had reported domestic violence to a health professional during the pregnancy.

Over a third of all domestic violence starts or intensifies when a woman becomes pregnant and the pattern of assaults may alter with pregnant women being more likely to have multiple sites of injury and to be struck on the abdomen. However, as dangerous as it is for mother and child during pregnancy the risk of moderate to severe violence appears to be greatest in the postpartum period.

Routine enquiry on the prenatal/maternity pathway in Cardiff & Vale Health Board was at 40% in previous years, the target is 100%

The NHS in Wales has ‘routine enquiry’ in place on the maternity pathway which in plain terms means that every women who accesses prenatal health services/checks is meant to be asked specifically if she is experiencing domestic violence/abuse. She is meant to be asked this without a partner or family member in the room for obvious reasons. Current figures suggest that this vital opportunity is only being used on 40% of the women using services.

Whatever happens to a women when she is pregnant also happens to her unborn baby including causing changes in the unborn baby’s brain chemistry. So spare a thought for those women and their unborn babies in our City for whom pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times in both their lives.

Violence occurs all too commonly in pregnancy

It is a sad fact that domestic violence may be more common than conditions for which women are routinely screened during pregnancy. And when a woman gets pregnant in a violent and/or abusive relationship the violence escalates. Between 4-8% of women experience domestic violence/abuse during their pregnancy. More than 14% of maternal deaths occur in women who have told their health professional they are in an abusive relationship.

Another sad and dangerous fact is that women who are abused before and during pregnancy are more likely to delay entry into prenatal care. Pregnancy complications, including low weight gain, anaemia, infections, and first and second trimester bleeding, are significantly higher for victims of domestic violence/abuse.

Domestic violence/abuse during pregnancy is linked to depression, substance abuse, smoking, anaemia, bleeding and reduction in birth weight

Pregnant women who are experiencing domestic violence/abuse are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and be at risk of suicidal thoughts; may engage in tobacco, alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. According to statistics in the US women under 20 years old and women who receive late or no prenatal care are the most vulnerable to domestic violence homicide. (American journal of Public Health, Vol. 95)

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The raw facts:

  • Almost a third of domestic violence starts during pregnancy
  • Women who are already in an violent/abusive relationship report that violence/abuse gets worse when they are pregnant
  • Pregnant women who experience domestic violence are also more likely to have a baby that is stillborn.
  • The stomach area is targeted for physical violence by perpetrators
  • Blows to the body/stomach and irregular attendance at antenatal check -ups (often a symptom of controlling behaviour) all increase the risk
  • Pregnant women who are abused are more likely to experience serious pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, high blood pressure and premature birth
  • Pregnant women experiencing domestic violence/abuse are also more likely to suffer emotional and psychological problems such as depression

Whatever happens to a women when she is pregnant also happens to her unborn baby including causing changes in the unborn baby’s brain chemistry. So spare a thought for those women and their unborn babies in our City for whom pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times in both their lives.

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