Doctors have recognised a disturbing type of intimidation that some women are facing in which their partners willfully sabotage birth control and it may be more common than we think, according to an article from New York Magazine’s The Cut.
The gold-digging woman who lies about her birth control to get pregnant in order to secure a lifetime of financial support from her child’s father seems a thing of the past. Instead, men who seek to control their partners are the culprits of birth control sabotage.
A study of 641 women conducted by Brown University revealed that 15 percent received reproductive coercion.
The women reported that their partners or boyfriends would hide pills or poke holes in condoms. Some men went as far as to threaten to leave or harm the women if they didn’t get pregnant.
Lead author Dr Lindsay Clark, obstetrics and gynaecology resident in Rhode Island, surveyed women with and without private health insurance who routinely received ob-gyn care and found that the reproductive coercion affected women from all walks of life.
Reproductive coercion can occur in numerous forms such as being forced to have sex without birth control, receiving pressure to get pregnant or not use birth control, birth control sabotage, receiving threats of harm or being harmed if you don’t get pregnant, preventing or forcing you to get an abortion – amongst others, according to safepassage.org.
The culprits are usually insecure and abusive men, who hope to secure a long-term presence in their girlfriend’s lives, make her dependant on them or control their partner’s body.
Unmarried sexually active women who are in abusive relationships are at the most risk for reproductive coercion, Clark found.
The problem has received that attention of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) which has issued a recommendation to doctors to screen patients whose partners may be subjecting them to this abuse, earlier this year.
Reproductive coercion is viewed as a form of domestic violence since many women with abusive partners often have a high rate of unintended and/or unwanted pregnancies during their relationships.
Women who have experienced reproductive coercion are more likely to have also experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) with some suggesting that the two go hand in hand.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s chief of adolescent medicine Professor Elizabeth Miller is all too familiar with this manipulation. In a 2007 research paper, Miller interviewed girls who were known to have been in violent relationships and found that a quarter of the girls said their former boyfriends were trying to get them pregnant.
A separate study done in 2010 (which is one of the largest on the topic to date) on 1300 women who visited federal- and state-subsidised family-planning clinics in California, Miller found that 15 percent reported having their birth control sabotaged.
One in five respondents said they had been urged by a boyfriend not to use birth control, or were told he would leave her if she didn’t get pregnant. Sadly, 35 percent of those surveyed who reported birth control sabotage also reported IPV.
The ACOG recommends that ob-gyns routinely screen women during visits, asking questions such as, “Does your partner support your decision about when or if you want to become pregnant?”
In order to help patients without arousing suspicion, the ACOG also suggests doctors provide less obvious contraceptive methods, such as giving birth control pills in plain envelopes, using copper Intrauterine Devices (IUD) with the strings trimmed or administering hormone shots to prevent detection.