Domestic violence and perinatal mental illness

Domestic violence is defined as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between those aged 16 years or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality” (Home Office 2013)

Domestic violence can start or increase in severity or frequency in pregnancy. It can be associated with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and PTSD in women in the perinatal period. It can increase the risk of low birth weight, pre-term birth and foetal loss. Children who witness or experience domestic abuse can present with behavioural and psychological problems; 40% of them are also victims of domestic abuse.

Safeguarding principles underpin the work of all health care professionals who care for women and their families in the perinatal period. Trained staff in antenatal, postnatal, reproductive care, sexual health, alcohol or drug misuse, mental health, children’s and vulnerable adults’ services should routinely enquire with service users whether they have experienced domestic violence. All healthcare professionals need to work in line with their local safeguarding policies.

Please find below a range of domestic violence resources

National domestic violence helpline
Tel: 0808 2000 247

Refuge charity

LARA-VP – A comprehensive resource to help mental health professionals identify and respond to Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA).
It includes pointers to help practitioners identify potential victims, initiate sensitive routine enquiry, respond effectively to disclosures of abuse and on how to deal with perpetrators of domestic abuse and violence.

Responding to domestic abuse: a resource for health professionals is an excellent resource for all health professionals.

Women’s Aid charity

The LGBT+ anti-violence charity The service for LGBTQ+ people who need support around domestic violence.

Programmes of support for those experiencing or engaging in controlling or coercive behaviour or abuse:

For Baby’s Sake

Freedom Programme

Hampton Trust


Oram et al Violence against women and mental health, Lancet 2017

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Resources for Healthcare Professionals

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