Sometimes, it can be hard to believe about “Domestic Violence during Pregnancy” in a country like Sri Lanka. The culture of our people and the religious nature is such that parenthood is treated as a divinely experience. Most married couples dream for a baby immediately. The protection the pregnant mother receives from the family, in-lows and the relations are such that she is well taken care of during pregnancy.

Domestic violence sadly is on the rise, and violence during the time a couple is pregnant is also increasing. Any woman, regardless of her age, education, religion, nationality or socio-economic status can be a victim of domestic violence during pregnancy. You can be going through these right now not knowingly that you are a victim, or you can be a victim of this sometime in the future. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the subject. Furthermore the violence could be from the partner, or another family member.

How should you know whether you are a victim of “Domestic Violence during Pregnancy”?
Abuse during pregnancy should not necessarily be physical all the time, and it cannot be limited to a number of occurrences to call it “domestic violence.” Your partner can dominate or intimidate you to exert power. Humiliation, constant criticism, restrictions to your personal freedom, isolating you from your friends and the family without consent can all come under abuse during pregnancy.

To put it short, if the partner controls the pregnant woman and, as a result, she lives in fear and distress during pregnancy, that is sufficient to call it “Domestic Violence during Pregnancy.”

How can Violence during Pregnancy affect the life of the mother and the baby?
Pregnancy is a special period in a woman’s life. Pregnant mothers naturally go through physical and psychological discomforts during this period due to changes happen physically and in their life style. Therefore, special attention should be paid in creating physical comforts and emotional well being of the mother during pregnancy. It affects the healthy development of the baby and the health of the mother as well. Violence, in any form, will not ensure a happy pregnancy. Instead, it will bring about negative effects both to mother and baby.

Especially, blows to the abdomen during violence can lead to miscarriages or to have babies with low birth weight. Fatal injuries that can happen during violence can finally lead to the death of the mother or the baby. Even though not taken seriously, emotional abuse alone can leave horrible scars. It can lead to serious psychological imbalances such as depression later on.

What action can you take to protect yourself from violence during pregnancy?
Often women do not report or complain about violence they go through. Among many reasons, Embarrassment, Fear due to threats from the partner, Ignorance that they are a victim of abuse and Lack of awareness about the legal framework are a few.

However, the choice is yours. You will have to decide whether you are going to suffer through out pregnancy and put your life as well as the life of your baby at risk. Your tolerance could be exploited by your partner. The situation could become worse after the child birth. Therefore, it is important to address the issue without avoiding.

What can you do to protect you from such situations?
Here are a few options for you to consider if you are already a victim of Violence during Pregnancy.

  • Sometimes your close friends and family members will be able to help you get out of this mess. Talk to them and get their advice. They may be able to give you a direction, provide information about places and professionals who can help you during crisis. More than anything else, you will be able to release your stress when you discuss with someone who is close to you
  • You can lodge a complaint with the nearest police station. All police stations run Women’s Desks to help those who suffer in these type of situations. You need not worry too much since women police officers are attached these units to provide the service you need. Find a unit closest to you
  • Government hospitals run One-Stop-Crisis-Centers to help women who are victims of violence. You can find out with the nearest government hospital in your area and get their assistance.
  • You also can discuss with the Public Health Care Workers or with the Midwife in your area for advice and possible further steps to be taken if you are not aware as to what to do
  • There are NGOs who help women subjected to abuse and violence during pregnancy. Such organizations run counseling desks at police stations and in government hospitals as well

It is not only your life; two lives will be at risk if you let abuse during pregnancy. It can leave you with bad memories for the rest of your life. Being pregnant is not a case to be abused. No one is born to be abused. Family members and the society also need to be aware of as to how they can help pregnant women who are going through such situations.

Women going through abuse need a lot of emotional support, non-discriminating attitude, privacy and confidentiality from others to feel themselves comfortable. So, you must be able to provide that to them. However, taking prompt action can avoid a lot of unnecessarily worries later on.