January 6, 2021

What Is The Emotional Impact Of Domestic Abuse On Unborn Babies?

Kimberley Davidson


Over a third of domestic violence starts or gets worse when a woman is pregnant.

It increases the likelihood of adverse pregnancy outcomes, but what about the long-term health and wellbeing of the unborn baby?

Adverse childhood experiences or ACES can be categorised into neglect, abuse and household dysfunction. Having 4 or more ACES significantly increases the likelihood of negative health outcomes in adulthood.

But given the statistics on domestic violence in pregnancy, how many children are born with ACES?

Most expectant mothers experiencing domestic violence do not disclose this due to feelings of fear and/or shame – so how can we really understand the impact on unborn babies?

Family courts still favour both parents having access to children – even when domestic violence has occurred and in spite of the acknowledgement that witnessing that violence is child abuse in itself. As long as this is the case, pregnant woman are unlikely to leave abusive partners for fear of not being there to protect the baby when they are in the care of the father and so thus ACES will be stacked against the baby before their first breath.