Pregnancy and motherhood are often presented as natural and unproblematic for women. The fact that there are some women who engage in violent behaviour towards their unborn child suggests that motherhood is not as unproblematic as we are led to believe. This paper presents six previously unpublished cases of foetal abuse that is physical assaults on the foetus by the mothers themselves, and examines how the prevailing myth of the good mother might be further endangering mothers and their unborn children. So far, the research suggests there are some common, possibly co-occurring, features that might be an antecedent to foetal abuse: unplanned pregnancies, prior mental health issues in the mother, trauma, pregnancy denial up to 20 weeks or until birth, and ideation of harm correlated to in utero movements.
KeywordsFoetal abuse Pregnancy Pregnancy denial Motherhood Neonaticide Childhood abuse
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
All results were derived from studies that had full approval by the appropriate ethics committee.
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