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Family violence during pregnancy

Many people start their path to parenthood in healthy, supportive relationships. For those who do not, it is important to know that abuse or family violence to women increases during pregnancy. The definition of family violence includes physical or sexual violence, psychological abuse, reproductive coercion and other controlling or coercive behaviours.  This could include aggression, threats to yourself or others, isolating you from other people, intimidation, withholding money, damage to property or pets, and threats to commit suicide as a form of manipulation. These pose a risk to both women’s physical safety, mental health, and the health of a baby during pregnancy. 

Expectant parents exposed to violence can have increased depression and anxiety, decreased attachment to the baby and other physical issues. 

Some midwives and doctors are trained to identify people who are at risk of family violence, however not all are equipped to recognise the signs. This situation can be harder still if a violent or controlling partner insists on attending all the appointments during pregnancy.

If you are in a situation that sounds familiar to this and you cannot speak safely with your midwife or doctor, it is recommended that you reach out to specialist services such as:

  • 1800 Respect on 1800 737 732 
  • The Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline on 1800 882 436
  • The national PANDA helpline 1300 726 306 
  • Triple 0 if there is an immediate threat to anyone’s safety

If there is no safe place in the home to make a phone call, consider phoning from a car, supermarket or other place outside home or borrow a friend’s phone if that is safer. It can be a very difficult call to make and there are many emotions involved. Experienced health professionals understand the complexities in family violence and can help you be safe. Remember, it is illegal for anyone to assault another person, even if you are married or living together. 


Other Resources:

Better Health Channel

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby

1800 Respect


Date of Last Review: August 2021