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Is Your Partner a Birth Control Bully?

Is Your Partner a Birth Control Bully?

When I was training to become a doctor, one of my patients was a 25-year-old woman. She already had one child and didn’t want to get pregnant again. She’d been using the birth control patch, but came to me because the patch wasn’t working for her. When I asked her “why not?” she said, “Because when my boyfriend sees it, he pulls it off me.”

That was my first encounter with birth control sabotage. Birth control sabotage is a form of reproductive coercion, which is a fancy term for a simple but disturbing idea… It means someone is bullying or intimidating their partner into sexual situations that put them at risk for an unwanted pregnancy. It could mean that a partner is sabotaging a woman’s birth control, like my patient. It also includes a partner threatening violence or threatening to leave if a woman doesn’t get pregnant.

Reproductive coercion is abuse—and it may be depressingly common.

There is evidence that birth control sabotage is common, although we need more research to understand exactly how common. Birth control sabotage can take many forms. For example, women have reported:

We do know that all types of reproductive coercion are more common in relationships that have physical or sexual violence. In the U.S., approximately one in four women have experienced physical or sexual violence with a partner at least once during their lifetime.

So what can you do?

If your partner is controlling your birth control, it is a sign of a larger relationship problem. All women should be able to protect their bodies from an unwanted pregnancy without threats or sabotage. You deserve to be with someone who respects you and your plans for the future—including when or whether you want to have a baby.

  • If you want support to get out of a violent relationship, call the national Hotline anytime 24/7 at 800-799-SAFE, or talk to your healthcare provider about local resources.
  • If you have friends who can help keep you safe, connect with them privately using the Circle of Six app on your smart phone.
  • There are also online projects like Know More, Say More that are designed to help stop birth control bullying and other types of reproductive coercion.

In the meantime, try tamper-proof birth control.

Ideally your partner should support your birth control choices, but if you find yourself involved with someone who you suspect wants to get you pregnant against your will, there are some methods your partner can’t mess with.

The shot (a.k.a. Depo-Provera). Once you get the shot, there is no way a partner can change or mess with it—or even know you’ve had it if you don’t tell them. Each shot lasts for 3 months, so you have to be able to get to the clinic regularly if you want to keep using it.

The implant. It sits just under the skin on the inside of your upper arm, so your partner wouldn’t notice it unless he went looking for it. If your partner does , he might find it since insertion leaves a bruise for a few weeks. The implant can last for up to three years, so it could be more convenient than the shot.

The IUD. It’s placed in your uterus, where it should be discreet and difficult to tamper with. It has small strings that can be tucked behind your cervix when the IUD is placed so that a partner won’t notice them during sex. If you want an IUD but you’re concerned about a partner finding the strings, talk to your doctor about possible solutions.

In a bind, there’s emergency contraception (EC). Actually, the most effective form of EC is the ParaGard IUD. It is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex and it goes on to provide up to 12 years of protection from pregnancy. The other forms of emergency contraception are pills like Plan B, Next Choice, and ella. You need a prescription for ella, but you may be able to get Plan B One-Step or Next Choice at your local pharmacy without a prescription depending on your age and where you live.

Related:
The Power of Semen
How Often do Men Think About Sex, Really?
13 Dos & Don’ts for the Doctor’s Office

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Grace Shih, MD, MAS, is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She has a family medicine practice at the San Francisco General Hospital’s Family Health Center. When she’s not seeing patients, you can find her cooking, hiking, or salsa dancing.

Read more: College Life, Community, Dating, Friendship, Life, Love, Men's Health, Relationships, Sex, Sexual Health, Women's Health

Originally published on bedsider.org

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Everyone should have the life they want, when they want it. And until someone is ready to have a baby, we believe they should have access to birth control. That’s where we come in. Bedsider makes birth control easier. How? By giving you everything you need to find it, get it, and use it well.

58 comments

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2:03AM PDT on Sep 12, 2013

Thank you :)

7:41PM PST on Jan 16, 2013

Its always the men who can least afford it and has no plans to support a child, that try to entrap women into giving birth.

On the other hand, YOU will the one be giving up your entire lifestyle for the next 18 yrs alone.

Babies are not cute kittens.

9:21AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

Scary to think that some people actually do think this behaviour is ok... I feel sorry for any kids who do result from this sort of sabotage.

5:34AM PST on Dec 27, 2012

birth control is an excuse for lack of self control but no one should tamper with the reproductive right of another

10:07PM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Gianni, I don't understand your comment. What does "Wikipedia" have to do with men tampering with a woman's birth control,and we all were warned about side effects of taking birth control pills. They've been on the market for 50 years, possibly a bit longer than that, but I know they were available to me when I got married in 1962.

3:58PM PST on Dec 22, 2012

Give this Wikipedia birth control pills and side effects and they will start bulling you!

8:03PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

Jennifer, your "base whore" theory would hold if you're talking about "entrapment" of men to get support and that happens all the time when it does not involve the military. We're talking more, in this discussion, about men who interfere with the FEMALE's use of birth control. It happens in many families and "cultures" where the men consider their "women" as little more than property. They want their genes to perpetuate and keeping women pregnant is one way of doing that. Do you watch Law&Order:SVU? They have episodes based on actual cases and there have been several which focused on this behavior, including a man who kept young girls "enslaved" and pregnant to give him a "family".

2:08PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

This is odd to me, I would think a man wouldn't want a woman to get pregnant and have to raise a child when they're not in love or ready for it. Though it makes sense if their purpose is to control the woman. I do know that behavior like this is common around military bases and that "base whores" (male and female ones) will do things like this so they can rely on the military to force the two people into marriage and the base whore can get military benefits from their new spouse.

11:18PM PST on Dec 11, 2012

This should be a relationship-ender. Men who try to exercise this kind of control should be avoided as bad news. This is abuse and should not be endured.

10:51AM PST on Dec 10, 2012

If the woman in that situation has a gun and a license, she should show him the gun and matter-of-factly tell him "The next tme you rip off my birth control patch, I'm shooting your balls..." and he'll stop (hopefully).

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