CALLS ARE BEING made to improve domestic abuse supports for women who are pregnant.
Currently in Ireland, one in every eight pregnant women will suffer from some form of domestic abuse, with many of those beginning a life of suffering during their pregnancy.
International research suggests a quarter of all victims are abused for the first time during a pregnancy.
The study from the Rotunda Hospital in 2000 says that domestic violence carries a huge risk for both mother and child.
“For the mother, there is the immediate risk of injury to herself and/or her baby. Many women who experience abuse and violence during pregnancy will continue unhealthy habits due to the stress of their home-life, such as smoking, resorting to drug use and poor nutritional habits. These coping mechanisms can have a harmful effect on their own health and the health of their foetus.”
All hospitals ask expectant mothers if they are suffering or have suffered at initial booking appointments.
However, most of those hospitals allow partners be in the room at the time.
A recent paper from a group of midwifery students at Trinity College found that the timing of questioning on the issue is crucial.
It found that the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital and Cork University Hospital both see women alone at booking and use direct questioning about domestic violence.
However, the Rotunda Hospital Dublin and the National Maternity Hospital do not routinely see women alone, at booking or at any other time, nor do they routinely ask direct questions specific to DV. Research indicates that the timing of questioning about DV is crucial to disclosure.
The students suggest implementing a pilot study to put in place HSE guidelines on screening. It adds that if there was demand, a full-time service for pregnant women would be established.
Edel Hackett from Safe Ireland, who launch their One Day census of domestic abuse shelters tomorrow, says that more must be done.
“Very often [domestic abuse] won’t be disclosed and often that is because women don’t recognise it.
“Women have often said that abuse starts in pregnancy. There is evidence that it started their or got worse.
“But there’s a need to raise awareness throughout women’s lifetimes. Women have to be confident that they will believed.”