Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Sex crimes-Psychological aspects, Sexual abuse victims-Psychology, Pregnancy-Psychological aspects, Childbirth-Psychological aspects, Psychic trauma, Healing-Psychological aspects, Sexual violence, Abuse, Pregnancy, Childbearing, Birth, Trauma, Healing, Labor, Qualitative


The purpose of this exploratory study was to gain a deeper understanding of how women with a history of sexual violence experience pregnancy and childbirth. The study used semistructured phone interviews with eleven women to gather qualitative data about their experiences with pregnancy and childbirth and their reflections on the relationship between past sexual violence and childbearing. The findings suggest that most women experience negative effects of past sexual violence at some point in the childbearing year and that these effects manifest as emotional, physical, and relational trauma reactions. When these reactions occur women may have the opportunity to process past trauma and experience increased growth and healing. Growth and healing was a prominent theme in this study, with all participants identifying some ways in which pregnancy, childbirth, or being a mother promoted psychological growth and healing. The data also suggests that how women cope with these trauma reactions and the relationships they have with their care providers impact their experiences with pregnancy and childbirth. In fact coping and relationships with care providers may mitigate trauma reactions and promote growth or can contribute to negative childbearing experiences. This study presents a framework of four intersecting themes: negative effects of sexual violence, coping, relationships with care providers, and growth and healing, meant to guide social work and maternity care practice with childbearing women with a history of sexual violence.




v, 122 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 105-114)