Having worked closely with a research team that was studying couples’ relationships during the transition to parenthood, it became apparent that violence during pregnancy was common (Halford, 2011), with 32% of couples reporting at least one incident in the last 12 months and 7% reporting that injuries from the violence had caused an injury.
The key finding of this study was that the violence was reciprocal with both men and women initiating the violence and continuing till an injury occurred.
What can be done to help couples?
The most important step is acknowledging that both men and women are vulnerable to instigating and continuing violence during pregnancy, and that both can become victims and perpetrators at the same time. Of greatest concern is the unborn child and the stress this places on the mother and her health.
In order to help couples with preventing further incidents of violence, and to improve outcomes for the unborn child, it is important that help is sought quickly. When expecting, many mothers will focus on the symptoms of pregnancy, their changing bodies and early parenting, rather than think about relationship counselling to improve the relationship.
I would like to encourage the 1 in 3 pregnant couples out there to think if they have been violent, yelled, threatened, hit, slap, kicked or pulled hair of their partner in the last 12 months. If you have, then coming up with a prevention plan can be imperative. Avoiding it is unlikely to resolve the problem and violence is dangerous at any time during the pregnancy. The hospital system may or may not realise you are at risk of violence, and talking confidentially with a trained perinatal counsellor or psychologist can prevent further harm. It can be a criminal offence to cause a miscarriage with up to 14 years imprisonment. Violence during pregnancy could cause a miscarriage and the penalties are serious.
“Any person who, with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years.”
What can I do?
If you are concerned you are at risk of violence – or if you are worried about a friend or family member – then please urgently contact our psychology centre and visit for a Free Emotional Health Check up. Usually we can help and with 50+ psychologists across 2 clinics you will find someone to help you safe guard yourself and your child. Waiting till after the baby is born is more difficult than if you start making changes during pregnancy.
Author: Vivian Jarrett, B Psych (Hons), MAPS, MAICD.
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