Expecting a child is a key risk factor for domestic violence starting or escalating. This is not news, the book 'What to Expect When You Are Expecting' tells the pregnant woman in the first chapter that their child is more at risk of domestic violence than they are premature birth. The resources devoted to the two issues are of course very different, and this is why research to expose the situation is so important.
What is significant about this study?
This particular research relates specifically to Western Sydney and is a ten year study covering more than 33,000 women. It found that all cultural groups experienced this risk of domestic violence during pregnancy, and that 4.3% of women in Western Sydney reported experiencing domestic violence during their first pregnancy. This is significant when you consider that the questions are asked when they first book into a public hospital during pregnancy. They do not have a long ongoing relationship with the health care provider at this point. Domestic Violence in pregnancy increases the risk of the baby having a low birth weight (very small baby) or being born prematurely (before 37 weeks), which is linked to jaundice, anaemia and respiratory distress in infancy, and diabetes and heart disease later in life. It also increases the risk of maternal suicide, which is one of the leading causes of maternal death in Australia.
What does it mean?
This is just another reason that pregnant women need increased support, and we need to fund proper maternity care for the sake of these babies. Questions are being raised about whether the midwives asking these questions are 'sensitive' to cultural differences and understand how to ask the questions, but there are a long list of things that these midwives are expected to look after and receive up to date training in. Additionally, clearly these conversations are difficult and more likely to result in accurate information if the midwife is able to have an ongoing relationship with the mother. Simply expecting more of the midwives without better funding the programs is unrealistic. Contact the Minister for Health here and tell him that you support a better funded maternity program and better support for the midwives.
In order to get more information about domestic violence and your rights you should make an appointment with Hamish Williams, he is experienced in dealing with violent relationships and can help you to make good decisions about your situation.