Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Ensuring the safety of pregnant women

It is imperative that you check in with pregnant women about their current level of safety and validate their experiences.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

Establishing safety in pregnant women

The woman or birthing person has disclosed and you have validated their experiences and difficulties.

Before the consultation comes to a close, it is imperative that you check in with the person about their current level of safety and enhance safety (LIVES).

You can begin to establish their safety through questions such as ‘Is it safe for you to go home today?’

However, there can be ambiguity around the notion of safety and people subjected to abuse may not perceive themselves as necessarily ‘unsafe’.

How to establish if a woman is unsafe

Running through some objective indicators will help to signal to you (and the person) if there is an imminent risk of harm. You can establish if they are unsafe by referring to specific behaviours and exposures.

  • Has the abuse been escalating? (Depending on the person’s stage of readiness for change (García-Moreno et al., 2015), it may be better to focus on specific behaviours rather than referring to the ‘abuse’)
  • Has the perpetrator been physically violent during the pregnancy?
  • Has a weapon been used against her?
  • Has she been subjected to rape or sexual assault? (Forced to do sexual things she did not want to do)
  • Has the perpetrator threatened to kill her (or the children or pets) or does she believe they could?

Endorsing any of these behaviours would be a red flag. It warrants clear and compassionate communication to help the person understand that they are at high risk of serious injury or harm.

It requires making a safety plan and providing immediate and accessible options for safe accommodation – this could be a family member or friend or involve making a referral to a refuge/shelter.


García-Moreno, C., Hegarty, K., d’Oliveira, A. F. L., Koziol-McLain, J., Colombini, M., & Feder, G. (2015). The health-systems response to violence against women. The Lancet, 385(9977), 1567-1579. DOI link.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

Identifying and Responding to Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) in Pregnancy

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education