Survivors of child sexual abuse
child; childhood; sexual; abuse; rape;
Many women have experienced sexual abuse as a child. While some women have no long term effects others may experience a significant impact on many parts of their lives including pregnancy, birth and mothering.
Even when the long term effects are small or non existent some women have been surprised and distressed by the feelings or memories that came up when they got pregnant, gave birth or mothered their child.
Women have described the following concerns or feelings. Some or all may be relevant to you. On the other hand none may be relevant for you right now but they might come up later. There is no way to predict exactly what might happen.
Whatever your experience, if you have been sexually abused as a child it may be worth talking about it to a midwife or doctor you trust so that you can get the right support.
Effects on pregnancy
You may find that you have
- Concerns about whether you might lose your pregnancy because your body has been damaged by the abuse.
- Worries about loss of control over your body during the pregnancy.
- Concerns about putting on weight.
- Concerns about whether your unborn child is a boy or a girl.
You may not want to have a male doctor or midwife because a man was responsible for the childhood sexual abuse (or a woman if relevant).
Vaginal examinations may be uncomfortable and traumatic. To help you feel more comfortable and in control of your body ask questions of your doctor or midwife, so that you know what is happening and why.
Labour and birth
You may find you experience
- Fear of vaginal examinations.
- Concerns that a doctor or midwife might notice you are damaged even if you don't have scars.
- Fear about being touched without consent.
- Fear of loss of control.
Research has shown that birthing is the most likely time for problems to occur. Some women have experienced extreme distress, flashbacks or a feeling of not being present (sometimes called dissociation).
Effects on parenting
You may find that you
- Have difficulty bonding to your baby.
- Are overly concerned about the safety of your baby now and for their future.
- May not want to breastfeed as it reminds you of the abuse.
- May experience post natal depression.
There is more information, including what you might expect from health workers, in the booklet published by Women's Health Statewide (South Australia) called 'Did you know? Information about adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse'. You may want to print this booklet and give it your care givers.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.