By Heather, loveisrespect Advocate
Being pregnant, or even just thinking about being pregnant, can bring up a lot of complicated emotions. Pregnancy can be scary, exciting,
confusing or all of the above! If you know you are pregnant, making decisions about your next steps can be really overwhelming, so we have a few tips to help get you through it.
If your pregnancy was unplanned, the choices ahead of you may seem daunting, but resources like The Pregnancy Options Workbook and All-Options can provide you with useful information to help you consider what will be the best way for you to move forward. You can even reach out to the All-Options talkline at 1-888-493-0092 for confidential, judgement-free support to figure out what next steps are the right ones for your personal situation.
The situation gets even more complicated if your pregnancy happened as a result of reproductive coercion or sexual abuse. It’s always important to figure out how to have a safe and healthy pregnancy, but doing so can be much harder for those in abusive relationships. If you are being abused, it’s crucial to think about what options are safest when you’re making the decision about how to proceed with your pregnancy. Your partner may have very strong feelings about your choice to continue or terminate the pregnancy. You may have found out that you were pregnant after leaving the relationship and wonder if you should try to work things out and get back together. For your physical and emotional safety, you might feel like it’s important for your partner not to know that you are pregnant. We strongly encourage you to trust your instincts. You are the expert here!
In healthy intimate partnerships, telling your partner about your pregnancy may provide relief, but we know this changes when a partner is abusive. It’s totally up to you whether or not you tell your partner that you are pregnant, but keep in mind that if your partner is abusive, doing so may put you in more danger than you were in before. Abuse is about power and control, so it’s not uncommon for someone who is abusive to use reproductive coercion and pregnancy as a way to continue exerting their power in the relationship. Studies show that the risk of being killed by an abusive partner doubles during pregnancy, and while the reasons are varied, they all seem to be rooted in the need for power and control–the basis for interpersonal violence. If you are experiencing physical abuse during your pregnancy, you might think about taking some basic steps to stay safer, such as avoiding arguments near stairs, in kitchens or in bathrooms (where potential for serious injury is higher) and protecting your abdomen during any altercations.
In addition to trusting your own instincts, having a support system at home, work or school is vital—especially during pregnancy. A strong support system can help you generate strategies for staying as safe as possible during this period when the risk of violence is heightened. In addition, feeling supported by those around you can help you feel confident about the decisions you are making for yourself and about your pregnancy.
Another thing that can help increase your safety and wellbeing during pregnancy is regular access to prenatal and other medical care. During pregnancy it’s very important that you are able to see a doctor regularly. Your doctor may even be able to help you create a safety plan.
We know that sometimes abusive partners may use isolation, including isolation from healthcare providers, as a technique to maintain control over their partner, regardless of if they are pregnant or not. During pregnancy, the consequences of this isolation can become more serious than at other times. If you are isolated from medical help –especially if you endure physical abuse during your pregnancy– this can lead to serious injury to you and your baby. If you are scared for your safety or need medical help, remember you always have a right to call 911!
If you have already left your abusive partner and are pregnant, that can be scary too. Abuse can make custody cases tricky, but our advocates are available 24/7/365 to look up legal help in your area. Our website also has great resources and ideas on parenting and staying safe if you already have children with your abuser.
Whether you plan to stay with your partner or leave the relationship, we recommend taking the time to develop a comprehensive plan to stay safe. Your safety plan should include realistic steps to ensure you are physically safe, healthy and emotionally supported before, during and after your pregnancy. Since stress can affect your wellbeing and your ability to make good, clear decisions, be sure to give yourself the opportunity to do things you enjoy!
Advocates at loveisrespect are available 24/7/365 via phone, chat and text to help you stay strong, think through your options and plan for your safety. Remember that–pregnant or not–you always deserve to feel safe and respected in your relationship! If you need to reach out for help, you can always call 1-866-331-9474, text “loveis” to 22522, or click the orange “Chat Now” button to speak with an advocate.