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.

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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.

Originally published on


Aaron F
Past Member 1 years ago

Just goes to show the many faces of abuse...and this IS abuse...!

Betsy M.
Betsy M4 years ago

Abusers use so many ways to control their prey.

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

Forwarded to those who have expressed interest and need to see this article. Thanks for posting

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen5 years ago

Thank you :)

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey6 years ago

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.

Amber Grisetti
Amber Laverack6 years ago

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.

Krysti Schwab
Past Member 6 years ago

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

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

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.

Gianni K.
Gianni K.6 years ago

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

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

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".