Mothers-to-be of any age don’t always know, when pregnancy turns dangerous. Doctors only see their patients in the office or clinic, after all, not at their homes, where pregnant moms are sometimes at the greatest risk.
The National Institute of Health website lists high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, infections, preeclampsia, preterm labor, depression & anxiety, pregnancy loss/miscarriage, and stillbirth as being among the most common complications when pregnancy turns dangerous. Yet the California Health Report says that nationwide, homicide is the leading cause of death of pregnant women across America, more than any pregnancy-related health condition.
Why Does Pregnancy Raise the Risk of Violence?
In the United States, according to the March of Dimes, 320,000 women are victims of violence during pregnancy each year, and domestic abuse often gets worse when the victim is pregnant and at her most vulnerable.
Abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal. sexual, or financial. It often includes a variety of offenses which impacts not only the expectant mother, but the fetus, as well (and any other child/ren in the home,)
An unplanned pregnancy can sometimes trigger violence, as it may heightens an unstable or volatile partner’s fear of obligation, entrapment or loss of freedom. It may increase an expectant mother’s sense of dependency on an abusive partner she might have otherwise been inclined to leave, making her more at risk of harm than ever.
It Can Be Deadly, When Pregnancy Turns Dangerous
That was sadly true for 18-year-old Savanah Soto. Her relationship with 22-year-old boyfriend Matthew Guerra certainly had its ups and downs. After all, she’d gotten a restraining order, after his angry attack on her on Christmas in 2022 resulted in an arrest for him and hospitalization for her.
Still, he’d apologized for his mistakes, so they reconciled and moved in together, resulting in her pregnancy with a baby boy they’d already named Fabian. The baby was due in December of 2023, and the couple was feted with baby showers thrown by both their families, although there was an obvious divide between the families. Matthew allegedly sold drugs and collected firearms, despite being on probation and accruing several more criminal charges. Savanah’s family was aware that she frequently had bruises as a result of their ongoing fights, yet she continued to live with him despite concerned relatives’ efforts to encourage her to leave.
What nobody knew, though, was that Savanah was not just a week overdue, she’d already passed the point when pregnancy turns dangerous, and a tragedy of huge proportions was about to befall all three of them. Just days after she failed to show up at the hospital to be induced, Matthew, Savanah and Fabian were all found dead in Matthew’s car,. The two young parents-to-be had both been shot, and as of yet, it’s still unclear by whom.
Whether this was a murder-suicide or capitol murder, one thing is clear: neither Savanah, Matthew or Fabian lived to reach their full potential. That is, perhaps, the greatest loss of all.
Safe Pregnancy Options for Expectant Mothers
Staying safe and healthy is the most important goal for any girl or woman who is pregnant. (But that means way more than just eating right, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.)
One of the best lines of defense for any expectant mother, of course, is prenatal care. The best ob-gyns don’t just provide prenatal care; they also look out for maternal health, so mothers in abusive (or potentially-hurtful) relationships can always ask their doctor or midwife for help, as needed. In Texas, mothers and mothers-to-be in need of domestic violence services or shelters can easily access services here: Texas Council on Family Violence (or just dial 2-1-1.)
Having a safety team in place (even if it’s just a list of local resources and phone numbers) is essential for any pregnant female. Know how to reach a doctor, a family lawyer, a family violence shelter, the closest hospital emergency room, and local law enforcement at a moment’s notice.
Adoption as a Last Resort
Just having a pile of baby shower gifts or getting a nursery together doesn’t make someone fully ready for all the responsibilities of parenthood. Physical safety should always come first, for both mama and baby.
For unmarried mothers-to-be desperate to spare themselves and their newborns any future abuse at the hands of violent men, adoption can be a valuable last resort. Placing a baby for adoption is a permanent choice, so that’s why this should be a last resort. (Because it’s the hardest choice any moms can ever make to keep their babies safe.)
Currently, two mothers in Abrazo’s care have both had the courage to have their abusers put in jail. Each of these mamas believes that a loving adoption plan is her best option to free herself and her baby from the risks of future family violence. (Under Texas law, a criminal conviction for documented abuse during pregnancy can constitute grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. All the necessary legal work is filed by the adoption agency on the mother and child’s behalf. This way, a pregnant woman who moves into Abrazo’s housing can be effectively shielded from further unwanted contact with her abuser.)
Whatever the situation and whatever your choices, be proactive about shielding any pregnant female from abuse. Whether this means you or someone you care about, take steps to help put a secure plan in place, so any mothers-to-be you know and their unborn can be protected— if or when pregnancy turns dangerous.
(Do it now, in memory of Savanah and Fabian, and others like them, for whom it’s too late.)