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"Domestic abuse is an urgent public health priority."

Healthcare professionals, including midwives and health visitors, play a vital role in identifying signs of domestic abuse and referring families to appropriate support services like For Baby’s Sake 

The Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists describe domestic abuse as a “maternal health issue” and identify that maternity care professionals “are particularly well placed to identify and respond to abuse”.

Not only is domestic abuse more likely to begin or escalate during pregnancy, but it has significant negative health implications for pregnant women and their babies. 

Domestic abuse doubles the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, and more than 40% of survivors experience mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and emotional detachment which can affect the way a mother bonds with her child. 

This has potentially far-reaching intergenerational effects.  

We collaborate with Midwives, Health Visitors and healthcare professionals more broadly to offer trauma-informed support to parents, starting in pregnancy and continuing through the baby’s early years. 

We work in partnership with social care teams to ensure a holistic approach to addressing domestic abuse and its impacts on families. Social workers provide essential information and support to families and work alongside For Baby’s Sake practitioners to create tailored intervention plans. 

Domestic abuse is quoted in 75% of Child Protection Plans and 60% of cases that lead to care proceedings, making it the highest ranking factor for children’s safeguarding and a major drain on the public purse, as well as a significant risk factor for longer term poor outcomes for all those affected. 

For Baby’s Sake is an innovative programme created by the Trust in response to the growing evidence of the life-long mental and physical health risks for babies born into families where there is domestic abuse. The programme aims to break the cycle of domestic abuse and create the conditions for resilience by providing the stability, support and nurturing conditions to allow babies and children to flourish. 

“For Baby’s Sake has the power to help to prevent a second pandemic of domestic abuse and poor infant and parental mental health. It has never been more important.”
Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Founding Director, Institute of Health Visiting

Annually, nearly half a million of people who experience domestic abuse seek assistance from medical professionals [Source: SafeLives]. Healthcare professionals often serve as the first point of contact for those who experience domestic abuse. Those who experience abuse trust healthcare providers with disclosures of abuse, recognising them as professionals who can offer support safely and effectively. 

Domestic abuse also casts a shadow over pregnancy, with research indicating that around 30% of cases commence during this vulnerable period. 40% of women experiencing domestic abuse experience it while pregnant.   

Recognising the gravity of this issue, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have jointly labelled domestic abuse as a “maternal health issue.” They stress that maternity care professionals are uniquely positioned to identify and respond to abuse.  

Health visitors play a crucial role in identifying and supporting families affected by domestic abuse. A concerning 82% increase in abuse reports since the pandemic onset underscores the urgency of their role. 

Domestic abuse during pregnancy significantly heightens the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight. Moreover, it exacerbates mental health issues, with over 40% experiencing conditions such as anxiety and depression, potentially impacting the parent-child bond and echoing across generations.  

MBRRACE-UK revealed that 11% of maternal deaths were associated with domestic abuse. However, the report highlights gaps in documentation, indicating missed opportunities to address abuse during pregnancy. 

Since 2000, the Department of Health has recommended that maternity services routinely inquire about domestic abuse, aiming to provide timely support and intervention.  

The perinatal period represents a critical window to support parents experiencing domestic abuse. Midwives and health visitors, and healthcare services more broadly, are frontline advocates in breaking the cycle of abuse and safeguarding the health and well-being of both parents and babies. 

An interview with Sarah

Reach out

We currently have For Baby’s Sake teams operating in Blackpool, London and the South of England, and the East of England. Delivery of the programme is subject to funding and current capacity.  

We welcome contact and referrals from healthcare professionals, including midwives, health visitors and doctors in areas where we currently have funding and capacity.  

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