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What Does Domestic Violence and Abuse in Pregnancy Look Like?

What does domestic violence and abuse in pregnancy look like? Read to learn more.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0 Images by Getty Images

By this point in the course, we have come to recognise that around one in every 10 to 20 pregnant people seen in practice will be experiencing current DVA (this varies somewhat across settings).

We have developed an appreciation of the risk factors, though we recognise we need to look beyond the common risk factors also and challenge assumptions that take us in different directions. We have also considered the impacts for individuals and their babies.

Now it is time to consider what the problem might look like in practice.

The following is a list of red flags for professionals supporting pregnant people and new parents:

  • A delay in seeking maternity care
  • Multiple pregnancies, unintended pregnancies, terminations
  • Repeated sexually transmitted infections present
  • Unexplained or repeated symptoms present in the genital and urinary organs
  • Complaints of being unable to sleep or concentrate
  • Appearing fearful and anxious
  • Alcohol and other problematic substance use
  • Self-harm and/or suicidality
  • Traumatic injuries present, particularly if repeated and with vague or implausible explanations
  • Intrusive partner present at consultations
  • A partner wanting to be consulted and/or make decisions on behalf of the pregnant person
  • A partner insisting on acting as the translator for a pregnant person for whom English is not their first language
  • Suspicious or particularly unexpected complications during pregnancy and birth
  • Other Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) issues including sexual violence, sexual exploitation, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), arranged marriage, forced marriage, history of any of these issues, the wider context of domestic abuse involving any abuse by family members

While any one of these may not in itself indicate the presence of DVA, professionals should be alert to patterns of presentations and/or any combinations of these factors.


Reflect upon a time where you suspected that DVA or another form of violence or abuse was present. Did you observe any of the signs above?

We welcome you to share your personal experiences. However, please do not share any identifiable information about individuals or organisations, that is, any identifying details like name, date of birth or address.
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© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0 Images by Getty Images
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Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) in Pregnancy

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