New Study Finds Reproductive Coercion to Be Prevalent

March 6, 2014

A striking number of sexually active women experience reproductive coercion by their male partners, and their ability to use contraception and plan pregnancies may be compromised.

Reproductive coercion is prevalent enough among women seeking general obstetrics and gynecology care that providers should tailor routine visits to identify and address the issue, researchers suggest.

A type of domestic violence, reproductive coercion is broadly defined as threats or acts of violence against a partner’s reproductive health or reproductive decision-making and is a collection of behaviors intended to pressure or coerce a partner into becoming a parent or ending a pregnancy. 

Pertinent Points

- A new study
reveals 16% of
women seeking general ob/gyn
care experience reproductive coercion.

- A third of women who experience reproductive coercion report intimate partner violence in the same relationship.

- Providers should tailor visits to identify and address the issue, researchers suggested.

“Asking questions about reproductive coercion and intimate partner violence is key to giving a woman the family planning counseling she needs,” said study author Rebecca Allen, MD, of Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, located in Providence.

Of 641 women surveyed from January to May 2012, 16% reported reproductive coercion currently or in the past (95% CI, 13.2%–18.9%), the authors reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And among women who experienced reproductive coercion, 32% (95% CI, 23%–41%) said that intimate partner violence occurred in the same relationship.

Nearly half of the women who experienced birth control sabotage also reported intimate partner violence.

Furthermore, the authors found that single women were more likely to experience reproductive coercion as well as co-occurring intimate partner violence. Just 28% of participants surveyed identified themselves as single.

All the women were between 18 and 44 years of age, and the survey was anonymous. The survey consisted of 28 questions and was self-administered only to English-speaking women. The average age of participants was 26 years, and 94% of respondents reported being pregnant at some point. Over half were currently pregnant. Most women (74%) were covered under the Medicaid program.

The survey defined reproductive coercion several ways, including pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage. Intimate partner violence included threats, physical injury and sexual abuse.

“Based on a growing body of research, it is clear that a striking number of sexually active women experience reproductive coercion by their male partners and are thus potentially compromised in their ability to use contraception and plan pregnancies,” the authors concluded. “Obstetrician-gynecologists are well placed to identify this phenomenon and lessen its impact on the health and well-being of patients and their families.”

The authors suggested additional research should focus on the health implications of reproductive coercion and effective interventions when it occurs.

References:

Clark LE, Allen RH, Goyal V, et al. Reproductive coercion and co-occurring intimate partner violence in obstetrics and gynecology patients. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014;210:42.e1-42.e8. Available at: http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0002-9378/PIIS0002937813009605.pdf. Accessed March 5, 2015.