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Domestic violence and abuse during pregnancy

Find out how to recognise domestic violence, who to contact and how to get support so you are safe.

Warning signs and dangers

Domestic violence is abuse of one person by another. Any person close to you or a family member can abuse you. It can be any of the following types of abuse:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • sexual
  • financial
  • mental

Domestic violence is any behaviour that makes you feel:

  • scared
  • isolated from your family or friends
  • threatens your safety and wellbeing

A current or ex-partner can be abusive or violent towards you. Although abuse can change or stop during pregnancy, it can also get worse and become more dangerous. Being pregnant does not protect women 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.

If you are in immediate danger call the Gardaí (police) on 999 or 112

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 women in this situation will experience a range of abusive and controlling behaviours.

Signs of an abusive relationship with a current or ex-partner can include any of the following:

  • you feel afraid
  • you feel controlled
  • you have been hurt or injured
  • you have been forced to do things you don’t want to do

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

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:

  • a premature birth
  • a low birth weight baby
  • poor weight gain during pregnancy
  • infections
  • other serious pregnancy health complications

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.

Where to get help and information

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.

If you are in immediate danger call the Gardaí (police) on 999 or 112.

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

Gardaí

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

Find your local Garda or police station

Cosc

Cosc is the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence. Their website has information on domestic violence support services near you.

It also has advice on digital safety. This is useful if you are concerned your partner is monitoring your internet searches.

What Would You Do

Women's Aid

Women’s Aidgives free and confidential support to women and their children experiencing domestic violence.

National freephone helplinephone number: 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 Ireland’s websitehas information on women’s refuges and supports across Ireland.

Rape Crisis Centres

National freephone helpline phone number: 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 the following:

  • rape
  • sexual abuse
  • sexual assault
  • sexual harassment

Information on support and local rape crisis centres at rapecrisishelp.ie

Sexual assault treatment units (SATUs)

Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) give specialist care to women and men 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: 20/11/2018
Next review due: 20/11/2021