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What are the effects of sexual abuse on pregnancy?

The reverse is also true. Pregnancy has an effect on abuse. Many abused women find that the abuse begins during or after pregnancy when their partner fails to positively adapt to their new role as husband and father, usually given a personal history of being abused or witnessing abuse in the home. The rate of abuse in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women is statistically higher. Some already abused women are spared during pregnancy but the abuse returns after birth. Either way, pregnancy does impact abuse as well.

Some of us have experienced sexual abuse in childhood or as adults. The aftereffects of abuse vary in severity, but they can last a long time. Abuse issues are sometimes triggered unexpectedly during pregnancy, labor, and birth, in the form of conscious memories or flash backs to the abuse, or unconscious body memories (tension, anger, sick feelings, or other discomfort) when a woman is reminded of the abuse in some way.

Common triggers for those of us who are survivors include vaginal exams or other invasive procedures, and pain during or after childbirth, especially in the vagina, but also in the abdomen, back, breasts, and perineum. Our interactions with our care providers - authority figures who may expect compliance and trust - may remind us of our perpetrator or perpetrators, with whom we may have felt helpless, unequal, submissive, or overpowered. Control over our bodies, our contractions, or the emergence of the baby - and being controlled by the baby, whose needs come before our own, can be major issues for us. We may associate a lack of control with being abused. We may have learned that remaining in control is essential to safety and being out of control is threatening.

Reminders during pregnancy or labor to "relax and it won't hurt," to "yield" or "surrender" to the contractions, to "trust your body" or "do what your body tells you to do" may have an effect opposite to the one intended, if we have learned to guard against giving up control in abusive situations. Abuse experiences may also leave us feeling that our bodies are damaged and untrustworthy.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth

ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO MAKE WISE DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY AND THE BIRTH OF YOUR CHILD -- FROM THE EDITORS OF THE CLASSIC "BIBLE OF WOMEN'S HEALTH" Pregnancy and birth are as ordinary...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.