Reproductive coercion is a factor in unintended pregnancies


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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