Reproductive coercion and partner violence increase risk of unintended pregnancy

Published on January 25, 2010 at 1:13 AM · No Comments

Young women and teenage girls often face efforts by male partners to sabotage birth control or coerce pregnancy - including damaging condoms and destroying contraceptives - and these efforts, defined as "reproductive coercion," frequently are associated with physical or sexual violence, a study by a team of researchers led by UC Davis has found.

Published online today in the January issue of the journal Contraception, the study, "Pregnancy Coercion, Intimate Partner Violence and Unintended Pregnancy," also found that among women who experienced both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk of unintended pregnancy doubled. The study is the first quantitative examination of the relationship between intimate partner violence, reproductive coercion and unintended pregnancy, the authors say.

"This study highlights an under-recognized phenomenon where male partners actively attempt to promote pregnancy against the will of their female partners," said lead study author Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the UC Davis School of Medicine and a practitioner at UC Davis Children's Hospital. "Not only is reproductive coercion associated with violence from male partners, but when women report experiencing both reproductive coercion and partner violence, the risk for unintended pregnancy increases significantly."

Conducted between August 2008 and March 2009 at five reproductive health clinics in Northern California, the study involved approximately 1,300 English- and Spanish-speaking 16- to 29-year-old women who agreed to respond to a computerized survey about their experiences with relationships and pregnancy.

Study participants were asked questions about birth-control sabotage, pregnancy coercion and intimate partner violence to assess their experience of pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage. Questions included:

  • "Has someone you were dating or going out with ever told you not to use any birth control" or "- said he would leave you if you would not get pregnant?"
  • "Has someone you were dating or going out with ever taken off the condom while you were having sex so that you would get pregnant?"

Approximately one in five young women said they experienced pregnancy coercion and 15 percent said they experienced birth control sabotage. Over half the respondents - 53 percent - said they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. More than a third of the women who reported partner violence - 35 percent - also reported either pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage.

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