Reproductive Coercion Prevalent Regardless of Socioeconomic and Educational Background

May 6, 2013

New Orleans, LA -- Reproductive coercion occurring along with intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent among ob-gyn patients regardless of socioeconomic status and particularly affects single women, says new research presented today at the Annual Clinical Meeting of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Researchers say physicians who screen for it should tailor family planning counseling accordingly.

Reproductive coercion is a male behavior to control contraception and pregnancy outcomes of their female partners. It can involve sabotaging a woman’s birth control, pressuring a woman to become pregnant, or even forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy. It can occur in combination with IPV, which involves physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner.

In a study of 641 women at Women and Infants Hospital at Brown University in Providence, RI, lead investigator Lindsay E. Clark, MD, and colleagues distributed surveys to eligible women ages 18–44 who presented for routine ob-gyn care during January and May 2012. The anonymous surveys included questions about men disposing of birth control pills, poking holes in condoms, and threatening a woman that, if she didn’t become pregnant, he would leave her or impregnate another woman. The study did not include questions about the forced termination of a pregnancy.

“I was very interested in looking at the question of why our patients get pregnant after we have performed contraception counseling,” said Dr. Clark.

Sixteen percent of those who completed the survey reported reproductive coercion in current or past relationships. Among women who experienced reproductive coercion, 32% reported IPV in that same relationship. Women who experienced reproductive coercion were assessed for co-occurring IPV with questions based on the Abuse Assessment Screen.

“What is striking is that reproductive coercion affected women of all socioeconomic levels and educational backgrounds,” Dr. Clark said. “Reproductive coercion doesn’t just affect poor and uneducated women.”

According to Amy S. Gottlieb, MD, senior investigator on the study, one aim of this research is to encourage physicians to screen and identify the large number of patients experiencing reproductive coercion so that these women can be offered forms of birth control that are less easily sabotaged, such as the IUD and the injectable.

*Monday Poster #12: Reproductive Coercion: A Prevalence Study

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of more than 57,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.


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