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Coercive Control During Pregnancy, Birthing and Postpartum: Women’s Experiences and Perspectives on Health Practitioners’ Responses

Abstract

This article explores the complexity of women’s experiences of coercive control during childbearing, birthing and postpartum and investigates the importance of health practitioners’ responses to women’s experiences. Research questions were: “What cues, from women’s lived experiences, indicate that coercive control is being exerted by their partners?” and “how can health practitioners recognise coercive control during pregnancy, birthing and post-partum?”. The qualitative study drew on relational empowerment to access rich data. Sixteen women in Australia participated in the research. Following the temporal sequence of pregnancy, birthing and postpartum, health workers responses are examined. Themes identified included: reproductive coercion followed by coercive control of ante-natal care, control during birthing, intersections with cultural expectations, partner’s self-obsession, grandstanding after a birth, and women’s feelings of isolation. Women’s experience of coercive control, their sense of isolation or, alternatively, support ultimately affected their ability to remove themselves and their children from the abusive situation. Health practitioners’ responses either helped women to identify their partner’s behaviors as abusive or exacerbated women’s feelings of isolation. The research suggests that health practitioners’ acknowledgement of coercive control, and the involvement of social workers conversant with feminist informed dynamics of domestic violence, can impact positively on women’s agency.

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Correspondence to Fiona Buchanan.

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Buchanan, F., Humphreys, C. Coercive Control During Pregnancy, Birthing and Postpartum: Women’s Experiences and Perspectives on Health Practitioners’ Responses. J Fam Viol 36, 325–335 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-020-00161-5

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Keywords

  • Coercive control
  • Health practitioners
  • Domestic violence
  • Pregnancy
  • Birthing
  • Postpartum