Abused and Pregnant
A Matter of Jealousy
The Consequences of Violence
When a woman is the victim of violence, the consequences for
both her and the fetus can be serious, if not fatal. The March of Dimes cites a
study that found pregnant women who are physically abused are at an increased
risk for poor weight gain, infection, bleeding, anemia, smoking, and alcohol
use. The organization also points to another report that found newborns of
abused women average 133 grams less in birth weight compared to newborns born
to women who were not abused. And an article in the May 1997 American
Journal of Preventive Medicine that reviewed several studies on the subject
indicated that consequences of physical violence during pregnancy can include
preterm labor and delivery, skull fractures, intracranial hemorrhage, and other
injuries to the fetus.
Domestic violence has garnered enough attention in recent years
that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended a year ago
that physicians screen all patients for sexual and physical abuse at every
visit. It's a sensitive subject few women will bring up on their own.
"I always sought medical help after every abusive
situation, and if someone would have just seen through my excuses, I could have
been saved sooner," Mary says.
Why Not Just Leave?
Many people ask, "Why not just leave the relationship?"
Carll says. But women in abusive relationships typically were physically or
sexually abused as children, she says -- and for them, an abusive relationship
is familiar ground. Mary was sexually abused by her grandfather when she was a
little girl, and she comes from a family in which physical violence was passed
from generation to generation.
After five years, she got herself out of her violent marriage
and into a good one, and has since had two children. Her past experiences,
however, still haunt her.
"I love my children dearly, but I remember being terrified
to tell my husband of the pregnancy, even though we planned it and he is far
from abusive," she says. "It still set off a lot of old
Elaine Marshall is a freelance writer in Reno, Nev. She also
reports for Time magazine and teaches at the Reynolds School of
Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.