By Baaqia Uqdah
If you think domestic violence has no impact on an unborn child, think again. When a woman is battered during her pregnancy, she and the child are both harmed.
For example, when a pregnant woman gets frightened because she is being battered or about to become battered, she and her unborn child experience negative emotions, such as helplessness, terror, fear and rage. The stress of being battered and a seeming inability to escape the violence may cause the woman to think she is “losing her mind.”
She may therefore display symptoms similar to someone who has a mental health disorder.
The unborn child is having similar experiences, because the human brain begins to develop 16 days after conception. Studies have shown that the repeated stressful event of a mother being battered during her pregnancy produces a level of stress in the unborn child that is damaging to early brain development.
If the mother becomes depressed during her pregnancy her adrenal gland produces cortisol. In some periods during pregnancy cortisol can be a benefit to the unborn child. At other times cortisol can be harmful to the fetus’s developing emotional system because it is a potent stress hormone.
The stress of a mom being battered during her pregnancy can also have negative effects on the unborn child’s developing respiratory system. This could cause the child to be born with asthma. The physical impact of the beating could result in the pregnant woman having broken bones.
Likewise, the unborn child may suffer from broken bones, birth defects, or other injuries.
In 1955 Dorothy Law Nolte, a Family Life Educator (1924 – 2005) published what became a very famous poem titled Children Learn What They Live. In remembrance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) I would like to share the complete version of that poem:
Children Learn What They Live
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
As a reminder, if you or someone you know is victim of domestic violence, seek help by calling the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800- 787-3224 (TTY).
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. For additional information about the impact of domestic violence on the pregnant mom, the unborn fetus, or the young child visit http://www.loveshouldnothurt.com or telephone Sisters in Sync at 862-520-4492.