Prevention of Pregnancy-Associated Violent Death

Pregnancy-Associated Deaths due to Violence

The leading causes of pregnancy-associated deaths (PADs), as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are homicide, suicide, and drug overdose.

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Improve Maternal Health outlines strategies for states and localities to take to improve women’s health before, during, and after pregnancy as it relates to prevention of violence.

Pregnancy-Associated Death due to Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

Pregnant woman upset and depressedDomestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior. It involves an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses hurtful words and actions to control a partner. Abuse, or threats of abuse, can be physical, sexual, financial, or psychological. This includes any behaviors that manipulate, embarrass, isolate, coerce, blame, or injure someone. Most often, the perpetrator of domestic violence is a current or former spouse or partner. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, economic class, religion, or gender. It can happen to married couples, couples that are living together, or couples who are dating. Domestic violence can occur in heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

Domestic violence may begin or intensify during pregnancy. Sometimes partners become upset or jealous if a new mom is focusing more on the baby. Even if a partner is stressed or unhappy, domestic violence is never the victim’s fault. Exposure to abuse can increase the mother's risk of physical and mental health issues. This includes substance misuse, depressive or suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and chronic illnesses. Domestic violence also creates an economic burden due to increased medical costs.

Abuse can affect the unborn baby too. Pregnancy complications include preterm delivery, low birth weight, or death of the newborn. An abuser may not stop being abusive once the baby is born. Abused children may develop health and behavioral disorders as they get older.

Pregnancy-Associated Deaths Due to Violence Video

Find Help Find Hope

Pregnancy-Associated Deaths Related to Violence

young black mother holding infant.The following are potential warnings signs of abuse during and after pregnancy:  

  • Prevents you from going to pre-natal appointments or visiting the doctor
  • Prevent you from seeing family or friends
  • Act jealous of the baby
  • Threaten to take the baby away after they are born
  • Attempt to harm the baby by hitting, pushing, or twisting the stomach of the pregnant woman
  • Question the paternity of the baby
  • Continual criticism and insults of one’s parenting abilities
  • Withhold money for basic needs and baby essentials

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing abuse, seek help from a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare provider. Trained advocates can provide resources and help make a safety plan to keep the mother and baby safe.

During your medical appointments, your healthcare provider may ask personal questions about your relationship. It is important that you feel comfortable being open and honest with your healthcare provider. Your answers are confidential and will not be shared with your partner, or family members. Your healthcare provider may screen you at many appointments to track changes. If you are experiencing abuse, your healthcare provider can connect you to support resources.

To find your local domestic violence agency, call 1-800-838-8238 or use the map tool on the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance website.

The following are potential warnings signs of suicide during and after pregnancy:

If you…

You should…

  • Feel intense uneasiness that hits with no warning.
  •  Talk to your partner, family, and friends about these feelings so they can help you.
  • Have difficulty falling or staying asleep (that doesn’t involve getting up with your baby).
  • Contact your insurance company to find mental health providers.
  • Feel like you are falling behind and struggling to keep up with tasks or relationships.
  •  Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider or OBGYN to refer you to resources.
  • Notice you have stopped doing things you used to enjoy.
  • Call Postpartum Support Virginia’s Warmline for resources:
    Call 703-829-7152 
  • Have scary or upsetting thoughts that don’t go away.
  • Feel guilty or have thoughts that you are failing as a caregiver.
  • Have family/friends mention that your mood seems off.
  • Have periods of feeling really “up,” and overly happy where you are doing more activities than usual, then feel very sad, “down,” or hopeless.
  • Are taking risks you usually wouldn’t.
  • Feel numb or detached, like you are just going through the motions.
  • Have no interest in eating.

Call the National Maternal
Mental Health Hotline:
Call 1-833-852-6262


If you…

Get help now!

  • Feel hopeless and in total despair.
  • Feel out of touch with reality or hallucinating.
Go to the local emergency room
or call 911 for immediate
medical related help!
  • Having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
  • Have family/friends that are worried about your or your baby’s safety due to changes to your mood.
Call or text the Suicide
and Crisis Lifeline at 988

to speak with a trained
crisis counselor for free
who can provide emotional support
and linkages to additional resources.