Few studies have followed pregnant women prospectively to examine the impact of violence on birth outcome. We included such an assessment in a prospective study of pregnancy among low-income women. Nurses and social workers interviewed pregnant women (n = 364) and asked if they had been the object of violence since they became pregnant. These prenatal interviews were linked with information from perinatal records and with birth and death information. In total, 15.9% of women in the study indicated they had been abused since they became pregnant. Abused women were more likely to be teenagers and to have partners who were teenagers. Abused women were more likely to be primiparous, to smoke during pregnancy and to have physical problems related to stress. Women battered during pregnancy were more likely to suffer fetal distress or fetal death [Odds Ratio (OR) 3.68; 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.36, 9.94], even after adjusting for maternal age and smoking status. Finally the infants of abused women were more likely to remain in hospital after their mother's discharge (OR: 3.75; 95% CI: 1.38, 10.23). Our findings suggest that fetuses may be compromised in utero, as shown by higher rates of fetal distress and fetal death found among women physically abused during pregnancy.