Domestic violence and pregnancy

Domestic violence and pregnancy

Domestic violence in pregnancy poster

For many women pregnancy is a time of happiness and anticipation. But pregnancy can also be a risk factor for domestic violence.


  • Over a third of domestic violence starts or gets worse when a woman is pregnant
  • One midwife in five knows that at least one of her expectant mothers is a victim of domestic violence
  • A further one in five midwives sees at least one woman a week who she suspects is a victim of domestic violence



Domestic violence during pregnancy puts a pregnant woman and her unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, low birth weight, foetal injury and foetal death.

If you are pregnant and being abused, Refuge can help you. Your abusive partner is not only potentially endangering your life, but also the life of your unborn baby.

Please call the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge). We’re here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are confidential.


Mel Rawding turned to Refuge after she was abused during her pregnancy:

Mel had never suspected that her fiance – a gunner in the Navy – could be violent. But that changed as soon as they got married. At the time Mel was three and a half months pregnant with their first child.

“Ronnie’s behaviour became increasingly threatening,” recalls Mel. “He would constantly abuse me emotionally and mentally – telling me I was no good, that no-one liked me. He slammed doors, smashed windows and threw dishes. I got used to dead legs and bruised arms. The jealousy and possessiveness became a part of everyday life. At the time I didn’t realise how lonely and isolated I was.”

Read Mel’s full story here


Raising awareness amongst midwives

In June 2005 Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge, addressed the Nursing and Midwifery Council at their annual midwifery conference to raise awareness of domestic violence and highlight the vital role midwives can play in supporting abused women.

As part of the presentation Sandra gave the following statistics (sourced by the Royal College of Midwives, 2004): that 88% of midwives feel that they should be able to provide help and information to women experiencing domestic violence, but 28% felt that they did not have the adequate training or skills to do so. Sandra urged that domestic violence training become a mandatory requirement for all antenatal professionals. Many of the attendees said that the lecture left them feeling inspired to make changes in their own practice area.

In February 2011, Refuge launched a pioneering Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) service from the maternity unit of a London hospital. To date, our advocates have delivered expert domestic violence training to over 300 midwives.