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Reproductive coercion is a factor in unintended pregnancies

January 25, 2010 |  8:17 am

HoldHands1 It's sometimes assumed that unmarried teenagers and young women become pregnant because they don't use contraception or because they want a baby. But the authors of a new study say there's another reason. Some women are coerced into pregnancy by their boyfriends. Young women even report that their boyfriends sabotage birth control to get them pregnant.

Researchers at UC Davis conducted a survey of 1,300 young women at five reproductive health clinics in Northern California. The women ranged in age from 16 to 29. They were asked questions about birth-control sabotage, pregnancy coercion and partner violence. The study found that one in five women said they had experienced pregnancy coercion and 15% had experienced birth-control sabotage. More than half had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. The researchers concluded that the rate of unintended pregnancy was double among women who experienced reproductive coercion and partner violence. The study is published online today in the journal Contraception.

"This study highlights an under-recognized phenomenon where male partners actively attempt to promote pregnancy against the will of their female partners," Elizabeth Miller, a co-author of the study, said in a news release.

"What this study shows is that reproductive coercion likely explains why unintended pregnancies are far more common among abused women and teens," Jay Silverman, a co-author of the study and a professor at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a news release.

Perhaps we've been over-focused on contraceptives. Rates of unintended pregnancy might decline if more young women learned to recognize, avoid or leave abusive relationships or were given the skills and support to do so.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Stefano Peralta  /  For the Times

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Comments (9)

The thesis of the article is that men coerce women into pregnancy, and the takeaway is that women should get better at not being coerced? How about, oh I don't know, men should stop coercing women into pregnancy?

Horrible and sad. What woman didn't already know about this problem?

This is sad but very true news. Personally, I have had a few friends who have become victims of bad relationships resulting with an unintended pregnancy. In fact, one women I know actually witnessed her boyfriend tampering with her birth control pills when he thought she was sleeping, needless to say she did leave him. I 100% agree that we need to start educating women about abusive relationships, women need to know that they should not put up with controlling or abusive partners.

If you really want a relationship and have low self-esteem, it's just not that hard to get tricked into a difficult relationship by a man who knows how to create/present a front that's interesting or enticing or even healthy. The endorphins feel good and we feel wanted and loved. Predators and abusers look for naïfs who want a relationship. Why not? We're easy and want a relationship. The dark stuff comes out soon thereafter, but the positive first impression lingers and overrides the newer stuff. We want to believe that the positive stuff is the true guy, but it's just a front. We feel tricked and don't want to feel like a fool who got tricked, so we stay in the relationship. Pretty soon, we're in deep. It happens fast, sometimes in just a few weeks.

And then there's the future: Some of us managed to get out without a marriage and therefore no divorce, so breaking up was somewhat easier; some of us managed miraculously to not have kids -- and could eventually disconnect and forget. Others, single or married, had kids -- those are some of the women you describe in this article -- and had a lifetime of, er, memories.

There are still lots of men out there who won't use a condom. Perhaps the guys described in the article are among them, but I wonder if some of them use pins and make holes in the condoms. "Oops! I guess the condom broke... Sorry..."

The other conclusion you could have pointed out in the last paragraph is that girls/women can take control of their own birth control inexpensively through Planned Parenthood or similar clinics. They can get birth control that is invisible and needs to be attended to only occasionally -- such as a ring, a subcutaneous implant, even an IUD. Their guys won't know. It's sort of like piercing a condom package with a pin, but it's protection.

Addenda: I meant "easygoing", not "easy".

Also, a major reason many women find men like that is that something about them is familiar, that is, something about them reminds us of a man in our lives, usually an abuser -- a father, uncle, even a brother, etc. Other women have no familiarity whatsoever, and are completely blindsided.

Guess the $64,000 question is this: Why would anyone WANT to be with someone who is abusive? Far as sabotaging her b/c, you take that little pill everyday...the moment you wake up...don't tell Jr where you keep them (non of his business) and call it a day. If a gal isn't ready to become a Mom and this guy badgers her about having a baby....stop seeing him. He'll find someone to have a baby with....good luck wih that, pal!! That isn't love...that's not even being intimate. He just wants a baby, to show the other homeboys what a 'man' he is....yah, right. How ignorant.

How is it that this article implies that a woman's ability to control her own body ends when she becomes pregnant, whether or not the pregnancy is forced?

Why are so many education/prevention efforts aimed solely at women when men are the problem?
They need to be educated not to coerce and not to abuse.
Teaching young women to be more assertive only solves half the problem.

What about a young man and his girlfriend, who tells him she's on the pill, only for him to find out she's pregnant? Girls can sabotage condoms, the female and male kind, with ease. Guys aren't going to know until it's too late. A poll should be taken of men's experiences with relationship violence and abuse, the poll in this article is one sided. Reproduction coercion and abuse happen to women more that to men, but it does happen to men, and should be noted.


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