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SAFE RELATIONSHIPS: Pregnancy demands a harm-free home

When you think about pregnancy you picture love, security and bonds that pull relationships closer. It is every person’s right to live in a safe relationship that nurtures and lends support – a relationship free of harm. Now is the time to be sure about your relationship – before you welcome a new life. 1 in 5 abused women report that abuse started or got worse during their pregnancy. Abuse in pregnancy is more common than some common pregnancy complications. Emotional abuse often comes first. The woman is insulted, threatened, put down in public, blamed and told what to do. If left unchecked, this control can turn into physical abuse – slapping, hitting, shoving and more. It only gets worse over time.

Why do women suffer abuse? They may become survivors by shutting out their reality. Thoughts like, “My baby needs a father,” may keep a woman in a harmful relationship for years. Staying can be what hurts the unborn child the most. Physical abuse can cause miscarriages, premature labour and stillbirths. Any kind of abuse can cause stress. Stress affects children before and after birth. Women might also turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, putting a developing baby in more danger.

Unveiling abuse

Strong differences in beliefs could be warning signals that your relationship could become abusive. Both partners should ask themselves these questions…

  • Is it OK for you to behave in a certain way, but not your partner?
  • Have you ever forced your partner to do something to get what you want?
  • Do you blame your partner for everything that goes wrong?
  • Does your jealousy stop your partner from going places or seeing other people?
  • Do you have set ideas about what each partner should be like or should do?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you might want to take a closer look at your relationship. Facing differences now will be easier than letting them take their toll when a pregnancy comes along.

Fill your family album with smiles, not bruises.


What are the signs?

Abuse during pregnancy can cause you to:

Feel sad and alone.

Feel anxious.

Feel bad about yourself.

Have pain and injuries.

Turn to alcohol and drugs.

Not eat or sleep well.

Having a baby does not make a bad relationship better; it adds to the stress. Start your family in a healthy way. Know your relationship. Your values and beliefs about togetherness tell you how you will treat each other in a relationship. Check the list on the next page to see how your answers compare.

Pre-parenting promises

You have certain strengths as a couple now. You can build on those. Finish the following sentences:

  We would like to get better at…
  We would like to first tackle…
  We will do these things…
  We can count on help from…

Through this exercise you have had a chance to think about your own relationship. Sadly, it is common to discover a relationship that is destructive and abusive. But remember that your right to freedom from abuse is more valuable than a marriage or relationship that destroys you. Women should never be afraid to reach out for help. Don’t feel guilty, ashamed or blame yourself for a failing relationship. Now is the time to make important decisions for yourself and for the health of the baby you are dreaming about.

Relationship quiz?

1. Do you find that your partner doesn’t want you to see other friends or participate in activities that do not include him/her?

2. Does your partner criticize the way you dress, talk, look?

3. Are there times when your partner’s teasing hurts your feelings?

4. Does your partner make fun of you in front of your friends or family?

5. Do you decide together what to do when together?

6. Do you ever feel pressured to do something?

7. Has your partner ever hit or slapped you?

8. Do you feel free to say “No” without having to explain your reasons?

9. Does your partner help you feel good about yourself?

If you answered yes to any questions but 5, 8 and 9 there are abusive elements to your relationship. Abuse often starts or gets worse during pregnancy. Talk to someone you trust.



Health care provider:

Crisis centre:

Sexual assault services:

Women’s shelters:

Assaulted Women’s Help Line: 1-866-863-0511

Canada's Treatment Programs for Men Who Abuse Their Partners:

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