Rape Related Pregnancy

The following information provides answers to questions that are commonly asked about pregnancy in the context of a rape or sexual assault.


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How likely is it to fall pregnant after being raped?

It is difficult to determine how many pregnancies occur as a result of rape. A large study in America found that 5% of rapes resulted in a pregnancy. The majority of these pregnancies were in young women who had been raped by a known and often related person.

A South Australian survey found that about 50% of sexual assault occurs within a domestic relationship and so it is likely that there are a significant number of unplanned pregnancies from rape within this group of women.

What can be done to prevent a pregnancy after rape?

There are tablets available to prevent pregnancy after rape and unplanned intercourse. This medication, the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is commonly known as the morning after pill but can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse. You can see a doctor to get the emergency contraceptive pill, or buy it over the counter from a chemist.

What can I do if I find that I am pregnant after a rape?

Making a decision about what to do when an unplanned pregnancy is confirmed is often difficult. The choices you have are the same choices any woman has when making this decision. These choices include:

  • continuing with the pregnancy;
  • continuing with the pregnancy and having the child placed for adoption; and
  • having the pregnancy terminated.

The American study found that about a third of women who are pregnant from rape do not discover that they are pregnant until the second trimester of the pregnancy (i.e. after 12 weeks). There are many possible explanations for this, but it is important that the pregnancy is confirmed early so that all the choices are available and there is time to consider what to do.

There are other factors that may need to be considered when making a decision about what to do when a pregnancy is diagnosed after rape. These include:

You may not want anyone, including your partner to know that you have experienced a rape;

You may not know who the father of the baby is if you have had consenting intercourse with anybody else around the time of the rape;

If you have been raped by and had consenting intercourse with your partner, you may not know whether the pregnancy was from the rape or the consenting intercourse;

You may be worried about how you will cope with the pregnancy and labour;

You may be worried about how you will relate to the baby and whether the baby will be accepted into the family;

You may have concerns about how the child will react if he/she finds out the circumstances surrounding conception; and

You may find it difficult to decide what is best at a time when you are dealing with the impact of the rape.

You could talk with a trusted friend, counsellor or doctor about your feelings and concerns before making the decision about what is best for you.

Can testing be done when I am pregnant to find whether my consenting partner is the father of my baby?

If you have had sex with your consenting partner around the time of the rape and have not been using reliable contraception, it can be very difficult to know who is the father of the baby. You could talk with your doctor about this and it may be possible to answer this question by looking at the timing of the intercourse in relation to your periods. An ultrasound may also be useful in helping to determine this.

If there is no other way of working out who the father of the baby is, and finding out would make the difference between keeping the baby or terminating the pregnancy, testing can be done while you are pregnant. This testing is expensive and there are risks involved with it so you and your partner should consider counselling in order to make the decision about whether to have in utero paternity testing.

This is done by obtaining a sample of the babys DNA through either amniocentesis or chorionic villous sampling, and comparing the results of this testing with the results of testing done on a blood sample from you and your consenting partner. It is not possible to do this without your partners knowledge and consent.

It is possible to determine from this testing whether your consenting partner is the father of the baby.

What if I choose to have a termination of pregnancy?

The most common pregnancy outcome in relation to rape and sexual assault is termination of pregnancy. If you decide to have a termination of pregnancy, you could see your doctor or counsellor for information and referral advice.

If you have taken legal action in relation to the rape, you should speak to your doctor or the police about whether evidence of the pregnancy should be collected for use in the criminal investigations.

What if I choose to continue with the pregnancy?

Some women choose to continue with the pregnancy. The American study found that about one third of the women who were pregnant from rape decided to continue with the pregnancy and keep the baby. A small number of women continued with the pregnancy and placed the child for adoption.

Confidentiality is an important issue for people who have been raped and you may not want to disclose to your doctor or midwife that the pregnancy was the result of rape. There are advantages, however, in informing a trusted health worker because issues that may be related to rape can be understood and addressed.

People who have been raped may experience a range of reactions. These reactions may not cause you significant problems related to the pregnancy. However, some women have reported that they have experienced difficulty with being touched and with medical procedures such as vaginal examinations. Some women have experienced flashbacks of the rape during labour and difficulties breastfeeding, parenting the baby and with depression. Also, you may have increased stress levels as a result of rape, which can impact, on your experience of pregnancy. Similar problems may also arise for women who have been raped in the past or abused as a child.

These experiences can be very frightening. Choosing to tell the doctor, mid-wife or counsellor may provide you the opportunity to discuss concerns and possible reactions to the pregnancy, labour and baby. You could discuss and consider how you could deal with these reactions if they should arise. You may also want to consider how you can best be supported during pregnancy, labour and when the child is born.

Women who want to continue with the pregnancy but would like to place the baby for adoption can receive information about this from Adoptions Co-ordinator at ACT Family Services by telephone (02) 6207 1080.

If you have taken legal action in relation to the rape, you should speak to your doctor or the police about whether evidence of the pregnancy should be collected for use in the criminal investigations.

I was pregnant when I was raped. Will my baby be harmed?

The majority of people who are raped are not seriously injured and in most cases the baby will not be harmed. However, if the woman has been seriously injured or hit in the abdomen, the risk of harm to the baby is greater.

In any case, it is important to see the doctor to check that the baby is OK. If you have any contractions, bleeding or tummy pain after rape it is important to go to the hospital straight away.

Domestic violence and pregnancy

There are many considerations for a woman who is in an abusive relationship and is pregnant. Domestic violence may first start during pregnancy and has been reported to increase at this time. It has been estimated that about one third of pregnant women are affected by domestic violence.

The safety of the woman, her children and unborn child are paramount.

Contact us

For information and hep with domestic violence there is a 24 hour crisis line on (02) 6280 0900.

We wish to acknowledge Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service