With several high-profile cases in the news over the last year of homicides involving pregnant women, psychologist Robert Butterworth joined MSNBC's Amy Robach on Monday to discuss why this group may be at risk.
Butterworth, who said approximately five percent of pregnant women are subject to violence -- an estimated 200,000 women a year -- noted that most victims are subject to abuse before pregnancy occurs.
"Seventy-five percent of women who are battered who are pregnant have been battered before. So if you're in a relationship, just don't think that being pregnant is going to make things better. In many cases, it makes things worse," Butterworth said.
Pending changes in the relationship between mother and father is often cited as a cause of violence, Butterworth said.
"What we have is that for a lot of men in abusive relationships, when a woman becomes pregnant, it changes the relationship, and they become more abusive, because they realize in a psychological sense that they're not always going to share the center," Butterworth said. "The baby now is going to share in the center of attention in a relationship, and a lot of men can not handle it."
"We have to remember that in some relationships that are somewhat shaky, a pregnancy can actually cause a relationship to deteriorate. Especially when a man does not want the child," Butterworth said.
According to Butterworth, it's important for family members, doctors, friends and everyone who is in contact with pregnant women to keep an eye out for problems.
"Historically, pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time. Everybody in the relationship is supposed to be very content, but a lot of times, what we find is that family members really don't believe the mother .So it's really important, not only for family members, but for doctors or people who work with pregnant women to really keep an eye on them," he said. "If they look sad or unhappy, it may not just be physical symptoms, but they may be involved in an abusive relationship."
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