THE DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON PREGNANT WOMEN, FETUS AND CHILDREN
DEC 11, 2018 @5.11 PM
Stress experienced by a woman during pregnancy may affect her unborn child as early as 17 weeks after conception with potentially harmful effects on brain and development.
"Cortisol, which is pumped into the blood when we become anxious, is good in the short term as it helps the body to deal with a stressful situation. However, pregnant mothers who experience long-term stress can suffer from tiredness, depression and be more prone to illness which is certainly not good," said Dr Katyana Azman, Child Psychologist from Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
Psychological abuse to the mother affects the fetus
She explained that psychological abuse resulting in depression would affect how much a pregnant woman eats, her food choices, amount of sleep, physical activities, prenatal vitamins and even her routine check-ups.
"It would also affect their motivation to care for the fetus in their womb. In such cases, the fetus is in danger of being aborted or being mistreated because the mother feels so affected by the abuse.
So, even without the child being born, we are looking at a long list of potential things that could happen to the baby.
Physical environment and instability in the child
Off-course, as the child makes it into this world, the child is being raised in an environment that is constantly hostile which will subsequently affect his/her physical and emotional development because one of two things could happen:
The effects even if a child had never had a hand laid on him or her could be something really damaging. Off course when that is not addressed in childhood, growing up into an adult, they would develop very skewed perception of interaction with people and what relationships are supposed to be like which in turn affects how they form lasting relationships; whether it’s family or romantic ones.
Again, it is a matter of self-esteem and confidence which starts off with something very isolated and snow-balls to affect them throughout their life span.
This thought is echoed by Dr Xavier Vincent Pereira, Professor in Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Taylor’s University Clinical School.
“The physical environment can be very insecure and lead to instability in the child, which can actually translate to mental health disorders especially anxiety and depression.
“Anxiety and depression comes on as the child reflects back on the past phobias that start at a young age. This however, may be manifest in a different manner according to the age group. We have to look at the developmental issues that prompts oppositional behavior in childhood and in adolescence.
Autonomy a crucial factor
While obedience is a requirement in our culture, having a sense of autonomy is crucial.
"As children grow older, they like to explore and push boundaries. What they are looking for is a sense of autonomy and self-confidence, an important factor in the wheel of development. The way parents handle this is crucial for the child’s development. When children are punished and smacked by parents for what is in reality, age appropriate behavior, they develop a sense of shame and doubt.
It is important to note that we are talking about giving our children a “sense” of autonomy, not autonomy itself.
Dr Xavier believed that it is essential that parents give their children a chance to seek for this “sense” and make it stronger than the feelings of shame and doubt. Then and only then, will children have the confidence to later pursue and shape their own ideas and plans.
"People don’t recognise that enough. Once we become adults, we supposed to have autonomy, but we don’t. We have bosses, religious and political leaders who dictate how we should live and what we should do – which is a big challenge for young people in addition to environmental, physical, social and psychological issues," he added.
Dr Xavier concluded that relationships in the family contribute to happiness in children while the negative ones contribute to ill health.
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