Prevention of Pregnancy-Associated Violent Death

Pregnancy-Associated Deaths related 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.


To Learn more about what you can do if you are in a crisis, visit

Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance (

Pregnancy-Associated Death due to Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

To Learn More about Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence, keep scrolling.

Domestic 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.

Risk Factors for Domestic Violence

Heavy alcohol and drug use Lack of nonviolent problem-solving skills
Poor behavioral control Having few friends and isolation from other people
Emotional dependence and insecurity Desire for power and control in relationships
Hostility towards women Witnessing violence between parents as a child
History of experiencing physical discipline or poor parenting as a child Communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment
Communities with limited educational opportunities Communities with high rates of violence and crime and low community involvement
Cultural norms that support aggression toward others Weak community sanctions against domestic violence

Domestic Violence During and After Pregnancy or Pregnancy Loss

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.

Your doctor may ask your questions about your risk for violence and follow up. Talk with your healthcare provider.

The following are potential warnings signs of abuse during and after pregnancy

Prevents you from going to pre-natal appointments or visiting the doctor Prevents 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 in crisis, call or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

Pregnancy-Associated Death due to Suicide During and After Pregnancy

Pregnancy, a new baby, and pregnancy loss can cause a range of emotions. Mothers may feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious, frustrated, guilty, or exhausted at different times during and after their pregnancy. Usually, these feelings go away on their own, but it is important to let your partner, family member, or trusted friend know how you’re feeling and ask for support with the childcare responsibilities.

Sometimes these feelings don’t go away on their own and can lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors. This requires immediate treatment with a healthcare professional.

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

and actions you should take:

If you… Get Help Now
Feel hopeless and in total despair and/or Feel out of touch with reality or hallucinating Go to the local emergency room or call 9-1-1 for immediate help.
Having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby Call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for free and confidential emotional support.
Have family/friends that are worried about your or your baby’s safety due to changes to your mood
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 to refer you to resources.
Notice you have stopped doing things you used to enjoy Call Postpartum Support Virginia’s Warmline for resources: 703-829-7152
Have scary or upsetting thoughts that don’t go away or Have family/friends mention that your mood seems off Call the National Maternal Mental Health hotline: Call 1-833-852-6262 (1-833-TLC-MAMA)
Feel guilty, or are have thoughts that you are failing at motherhood
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, or have no interest in eating

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