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Domestic violence and abuse during pregnancy

Domestic violence is abuse of one person by another. Abuse can come from anybody, including a person close to you, a family member or even a partner or former partner.

It can be any of the following types of abuse:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • psychological
  • sexual
  • financial
  • social
  • online

Domestic violence is any behaviour that makes you feel:

  • scared, nervous or anxious
  • isolated from your family or friends
  • your safety and wellbeing is threatened

Abuse can change or stop during pregnancy. But it can also get worse and become more dangerous. Being pregnant does not protect you from domestic violence.

It is very important to talk to somebody you trust. This could be a friend, a family member, a domestic violence support service or your GP.

Emergency action required: Call the Gardaí on 112 or 999 if:

  • you are in immediate danger

Learn more about domestic violence - stillhere.ie

Warning signs of an abusive relationship

An abuser can use a range of behaviours and actions to get power and control over their partner.

Abuse and violence in a relationship often get worse over time. Most victims in this situation will experience a range of abusive and controlling behaviours.

There are many signs of an abusive relationship with a current or ex-partner.

You may:

  • feel afraid
  • feel controlled
  • feel isolated or alone
  • have been hurt or injured
  • have been forced to do things you do not want to do
  • need to ask permission to do things - this is called coercive control

Abuse can change or stop during pregnancy, but it can also get worse. It can also become more dangerous and severe after the pregnancy and birth.

Find out more about coercive control - safeireland.ie

Dangers during and after pregnancy

Experiencing any form of abuse during pregnancy can be very dangerous.

Pregnancy or just after having a baby is known as a high risk time for women in abusive relationships.

Violence can be especially severe. It can lead to death, pregnancy loss, injuries and mental health concerns.

Experiencing domestic violence means you are more likely to have:

Women in Ireland also report miscarriage because of physical violence during pregnancy.

Many women feel hopeful during their pregnancy that things will change or improve. Other women feel anxious, depressed and hopeless.

Coping with difficult situations

Where to get help and information


If you are in immediate danger, call the Gardaí on 112 or 999.

The first step to protect yourself is to talk to somebody you trust. This could be a friend, a family member or a domestic violence support service.

You can also talk to your public health nurse, GP (family doctor), GP practice nurse or midwife.

Help, support and information is also available in every maternity hospital in Ireland.

Help, supports and safe accommodation are available to every woman in Ireland. This includes women who are pregnant, have a small baby or have had a miscarriage.

Free services include:

  • refuges, crisis accommodation or safe houses for women and children to stay in
  • telephone helplines for practical information, help and referral
  • outreach to meet with and support women
  • court accompaniment and legal advice
  • counselling


In an emergency, call the Gardaí on 112 or 999. The Gardaí can help you contact services that give advice on safety, protection and barring orders.

The Gardaí is the national police service of Ireland.

Find your local Garda station

Women's Aid

Women's Aid gives free and confidential support to women and their children experiencing domestic violence.

National freephone helpline: 1800 341 900.

The helpline is always open (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

It offers support in over 170 languages through a telephone interpretation service.

Safe Ireland

SAFE.ie has information on women’s refuges and supports across Ireland.

Rape Crisis Centres

National freephone helpline: 1800 77 8888.

The helpline is always open (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

It is a free and confidential listening and support service.

It is for women and men who have been affected at any time in their lives by:

  • rape
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual assault
  • sexual harassment

Sexual assault treatment units (SATUs)

Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) give specialist care to people who have recently been sexually assaulted or raped.

The services are all free. There are 6 SATUs across Ireland.

Domestic violence and the law

Domestic violence is a serious crime. The Gardaí can arrest and prosecute a partner or ex-partner who is violent and abusive.

Page last reviewed: 12 September 2022
Next review due: 12 September 2025