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Intimate Partner Abuse in Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

Intimate partner violence, also known as domestic violence, may happen during pregnancy. The abuser uses fear to control or overpower the relationship by using intimidation, threats, or physical force. There may be a pattern of an ongoing or on and off abuse. The abuser may beg for forgiveness, promise to change, or try to make up for the wrongdoing. The abuser may also act as if the violence never happened. Intimate partner abuse is not normal or acceptable.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You fear for your life, or the lives of your fetus or other children.
  • You or your fetus have been badly hurt, such as if you are hit in the head or stomach.
  • You feel like hurting yourself, your fetus, or someone else.
  • You have sudden trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have pain when you urinate, or vaginal bleeding.
  • You have abdominal pain.

Call your doctor or obstetrician if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Rest when you feel it is needed. Tell your healthcare provider if you have trouble sleeping.
  • Apply ice and heat as directed:
    • Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your injury for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
    • After the first 24 to 48 hours, your healthcare provider may have you use heat. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed.
  • Report physical or emotional abuse. It may be hard to report physical or emotional abuse, but it is very important. Healthcare providers can help you if you are at risk for or are a victim of intimate partner violence.
  • Go to follow-up visits. Your healthcare provider may talk to you, your family, friends, or the person responsible for intimate partner violence. This may include what may happen if the abuse does not stop. You may need to leave your current living situation to protect yourself, your fetus, and your other children.
  • Counseling may be recommended. Intimate partner violence may cause you to feel scared, depressed, or anxious. A counselor can help you talk about how you are feeling.

Protect yourself and your unborn baby:

  • Create a safety plan:
    • Prepare a bag with clothes, money, and important papers in case you need to leave your house quickly.
    • Hide an extra set of house and car keys.
    • Have a secret way to let your family or friends know you need urgent help.
    • Plan where you can go if you need to leave.
    • If you do not have a cell phone, ask your healthcare provider about emergency cell phones for 911 calls only.
    • When you are attacked, avoid rooms with one entrance (such as bathrooms) and stay out of the kitchen.
  • Contact the police. Call the police if your or your baby's life is at risk. The police can remove your abuser. Your abuser can be kept away from you if that is what you choose.
  • Think about spending one or more nights in a shelter. A women's shelter can give you a safe place to stay when you need it.
  • Ask for names and phone numbers. Get a list of phone numbers for people who can help you. People at these phone numbers can answer your questions, and tell you where to go to get help.
  • Ask about a domestic violence advocate. This is a trained healthcare provider who will talk to you about your choices. Contact with this healthcare provider is private. This person may also help you in an emergency to make sure that you are safe from your abuser.

Follow up with your doctor or obstetrician as directed:

You will need follow-up visits to check on your health and the health of your unborn baby. You may need more support and help over time. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    PO Box 90249
    Austin , TX 78709
    Phone: 1- 800 - 799-7233
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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