Pregnancy and domestic violence
If you are experiencing domestic violence whilst you are pregnant, both you and your unborn baby may be at risk of harm. This section gives information about how to get help and what might happen if professionals are worried about the safety of your unborn baby.
How can I get help to protect myself and my unborn baby?
If you are experiencing domestic violence you can ask for help from domestic violence organisations and from other professionals at an early stage see link to getting early help. If you are worried that you and/or your unborn baby may be harmed then contact the police or a domestic violence organisation and ask what options are open to you. It may also be worth discussing with a solicitor what court orders you can apply for.
What may happen if professionals are worried about my unborn baby?
If you are pregnant and professionals are worried about the safety of your unborn baby because of violence between you and your partner, it is likely that they will make a referral to Children's Services. If this happens, a social worker will get in touch with you. They will carry out an assessment to decide whether they think your baby will be safe when they are born and, if not, what should happen after the birth to make sure your baby is safe. The social worker will speak to your midwife and other relevant health staff when doing their assessment of your family situation.
If, after the assessment, the social worker is still worried that your baby may be likely to suffer significant harm after the birth, then an initial child protection conference may be held while you are still pregnant. The professionals at the conference may then decide that a child protection plan should be drawn up saying how your baby must be kept safe after the birth. You should go to the conference and tell people at the conference what you think would help you and your baby. It is important that you get the right advice and support about your particular situation at this stage, so do contact a specialist advice service such as Family Rights Group advice service or a domestic violence organisation.
Sometimes the social worker may be so concerned about the risk to your baby that they think you may not be able to care for your baby after the birth. In these circumstances they may consider going to court after the birth to ask for an order giving them the right to remove your baby from your care. In this situation, the social worker should tell you this and should send you a letter before proceedings, ideally, by week 24 of your pregnancy, telling you what you can do (if anything) to stop court proceedings from happening. In some cases, the social worker may say they are going to court anyway and there is nothing you can do to stop this. In this case they should send you a letter of issue telling you this.
If you receive one of these letters, it is really important that you see a solicitor specialising in child care law immediately and you should take the letter with you as this will enable you to get free advice. They will help you negotiate a plan with the social worker.
You should also contact members of your wider family as soon as possible to ask if they can support you to care for your baby after the birth and also if they can look after your baby in the event that you cannot.
You could also ask the social worker to refer you for a family group conference so you can work with your whole family to make a safe plan for your baby.
Frequently asked questions