Contraceptive sabotage — when the partner of a woman forbids, interferes with or otherwise prevents her from effectively controlling pregnancy risk — is a hugely underestimated issue, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has shed new light on the common method of abuse as well as who may be at risk.
Reproductive coercion is another term for contraceptive sabotage, and leading OB-GYNs say that doctors may not realize how widespread it is, nor screen for the situation in at-risk patients. According to a report in the February edition of the medical journal Obstetrics Gynecology, contraceptive sabotage may include destroying, hiding or coercing a woman out of using birth control or deliberately exposing her to a sexually transmitted disease.
Dr. Eve Espey is chairwoman of the ACOG’s Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women, and she explains that awareness of the prevalence of reproductive abuse or contraceptive sabotage is low among doctors, explaining:
“Most ob/gyns are probably unfamiliar with sexual and reproductive coercion as an entity and probably don’t ask about it … It’s hard to determine the prevalence of this form of abuse, and it’s understood that most [domestic] violence is under-reported.”
“Given how prevalent [domestic] violence is, reproductive coercion is probably not uncommon.”
While the risk of an abusive partner interfering with contraception remains, Espey says there are ways to effectively combat the problem:
” … an IUD with the strings cut off would protect against pregnancy but would not be felt by the partner during intercourse … Most women involve their partners in these decisions, but in some circumstances, it is unsafe to do so … If a woman feels that she is experiencing reproductive coercion, there is help.”
As many as three in ten women have been affected by domestic abuse, so doctors believe reproductive coercion and contraceptive sabotage may be a far worse problem than statistics reflect.