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Reproductive Coercion is Abuse

Updated October 11, 2022

What is Reproductive coercion?

Reproductive coercion is an extremely dangerous tactic abusers use to gain power and control over survivors’ reproductive health or reproductive decisions.   

Essentially, reproductive coercion or forced pregnancy is a form of abuse is when an abuser controls any reproductive choices a survivor is making or intentionally disregards a reproductive choice or boundary their partner has made to trap their partner into staying in the abusive relationship. 

Elizabeth Miller, director of adolescent and young adult medicine at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, was the first to identify and study this form of domestic abuse, officially coining the term “reproductive coercion” in 2010.  

It is not uncommon for abusers to force a survivor to stay with them by using reproductive coercion, and they can do this by hiding or destroying their birth control, tampering with other forms of contraception, barring survivors from accessing healthcare, or avoiding taking them to the doctor. When survivors cannot access the proper resources to get help, it can lead to dangerous procedures, mental health deterioration, suicide, and so much more. 

Let’s Look at the Data 

  • – Those with unplanned pregnancies who are experiencing abuse see a decrease in abuse if they can access comprehensive medical care. 
  • – One-third of women who report experiencing reproductive coercion also experienced physical abuse from the same partner. 
  • – Homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant women in abusive relationships, and physical abuse only increases when a person in an abusive relationship becomes pregnant. 
  • – Pregnant women who are survivors of abuse are more likely to give birth to preterm babies with lower birth weights; mothers are also less likely to nurse or bond with them. 
  • – Even if a survivor is successful in escaping an abusive relationship, post-separation abuse is more likely to occur if there is a child involved. 

**Only a handful of studies include data on men. From 2010 to 2012, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that male respondents experienced reproductive coercion slightly more often than women at a 9.7 percent rate compared with 8.4 percent of women. Men are more likely to report that a partner tried to entrap them through pregnancy against their wishes. Their partners lied about being infertile or using contraceptives, for example.  

Some of the key warning signs include: 

  • – Hiding or throwing away a person’s pills or pill packet 
  • – Threatening behavior that pressures a person to become pregnant when they do not want to, or keeps them from becoming pregnant when they do 
  • – Injuring a pregnant person with the intention of tampering with their pregnancy 
  • – Threatening to end the relationship or cause harm if someone does not stop or start using contraception 

What can we do? 

The safest ways you can support victims of reproductive coercion are by offering to listen to them without judgment, offering support, allowing them to make decisions regarding their safety and needs, and providing them with resources. 

Health care providers can directly provide interventions that address reproductive and sexual coercion. Interventions can include educating patients about safety planning and support services, offering harm-reduction strategies, and providing discreet and confidential methods of contraception such as IUDs, emergency contraception, injections and implants.  

Helping patients to conceal contraceptive methods may be necessary to help protect the patient. It is important for healthcare providers to be aware that some partners may monitor bleeding patterns and menstrual cycles. For women in this situation, the copper IUD could be a safe long-term contraceptive option because it does not typically cause changes to the menstrual cycle. Healthcare providers should consider trimming IUD strings inside the cervical canal to minimize detection and removal by an intimate partner.   

If this information is reflective of your relationship, please consider calling our 24-hour hotline at (727) 895-4912 or talking to an advocate through our chat feature at www/ 

Sources: The World Health Organization, Rolling Stone, BMC Medicine Journal, The National Institute for Medicine, Family Planning, and American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control 

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