When He Sabotages Your Birth Control
The next time you visit your ob-gyn, be prepared to answer this question: “Do you feel pressure from your partner to have a baby?” The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued guidelines earlier this year urging doctors to routinely screen their patients for “reproductive coercion;” the fairly new phenomena of male partners sabotaging birth control pills, poking holes in condoms, and generally making it harder for their girlfriends, wives, and partners to carry out their desire to not have a child.
ACOG recommendations reflect research that suggests men who sabotage the birth control plans of their partners are engaging in a form of intimate partner violence according to New York Magazine. Birth control sabotage appears to cut across socioeconomic lines as well as age and marital status. According to one of the leading experts, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh's chief of adolescent medicine Elizabeth E. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., the highest risk factor for women is being unmarried and sexually active. Clearly, that’s a very large percentage of women.
Some men are even counting the days of women’s periods and experts are recommending that women who believe their partners may be sabotaging their birth control switch to a non-hormonal IUD as their method.
If you’re worried about reproductive coercion you can visit Know More Say More for resources.
Experts agree that naming this phenomena will have a greater impact in helping women understand that a partner who throws away birth control pills or pressures you into sex without protection is, in fact, participating in a form of violence that doesn’t leave scars, but still has serious lasting effects.
However, my fear is that the general “spin” from this news will be that women should get married in order to “protect” themselves. Of course women should marry because they want to, not for “protection.” That’s just silly. As an unmarried, sexually active woman, I’m not interested in marriage or having another child in the near future and my partner knows this.
What’s important to note is that teen girls are also affected by this growing trend and we should be taking the time to talk to our daughters about the many ways in which control and violence can manifest in relationships without physical hitting. Violence can be emotional and include deceptive behavior that attempts to control another person’s autonomy. But the burden shouldn’t be left to our teen girls – boys clearly play a huge role and need to be talked to as well.
A few years ago, I met a woman that was convinced her husband purposely removed protection during sex. She subsequently became pregnant and miscarried, but before all of that she was deeply depressed. Did he really remove the condom on purpose? He always wanted a large family, but she wanted to stop at three children. Ultimately, I think, she talked herself out of the probability that he did sabotage her birth control method. At the time, it never occurred to her or me that “pregnancy coercion” was even a “thing.”
And because of that instance, I agree with the experts that a name can make all the difference.
Image via Flickr/Forget Me Knot Photography