What is Reproductive Coercion?

As a part of domestic violence awareness month, it is important to recognize the different ways that abuse can show up in relationships and support those who have been through these experiences or are currently in unhealthy relationships. 

“Domestic abuse, also called “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence,” can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” (Source, Un.org)

This exertion of power can be through physical, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse. Reproductive coercion is one of the least commonly talked about forms of abuse, while certainly one of the most impactful on the trajectory of someone’s life. 

Reproductive Coercion is when someone exerts power and control over someone’s reproductive rights. A person may see pregnancy as a way to keep their partner in their life, even if their partner doesn’t want to get pregnant. This may sound extreme or like something from a psychological thriller movie, but it happens more than people think. 

Although all genders can be coerced, an August 2019 study found that of 550 sexually active high school females, one in eight had experienced reproductive coercion in the past three months. This type of abuse can look like: 

  • A partner refusing to use protection
  • Punching holes in condoms
  • Throwing birth control pills away
  • Saying he will leave if you don’t get pregnant
  • Tries to talk you out of going to get birth control 
  • Lying about using contraception
  • Purposefully trying to give a partner an STI
  • Removing a condom during intercourse is known as “Stealthing.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is starting to provide screening questions for healthcare providers to look for red flags related to reproductive coercion. While this
helps identify reproductive coercion, we want everyone to know additional ways to seek help and how to respond if someone discloses that they are experiencing reproductive coercion.  

If you are experiencing reproductive coercion, here are some things you can do:


  • Talk to a healthcare professional. Healthcare providers can confidentially help connect you to resources and discuss ways to protect your reproductive health. 
Image Source: National Domestic Violence Hotline

If someone shares with you that they are experiencing reproductive coercion, here are a few tips on how to respond:

  • Create a safe and calm conversation that starts on a positive note. Let your friend know that you value their friendship and appreciate that they trust you with this important information.


  • Breathe. Take a few deep breaths and lean back to create a safe space for your friend to share. Listen to their experience and validate their feelings. Sharing your struggles with relationships may encourage more conversation and validate their concerns.


  • Compassion over conviction. Your friend may not have the tools or awareness to recognize the relationship is unhealthy. Labeling the relationship or their partner as abusive may cut future contact off from your friend. Ultimately, it is their decision how to respond to their experience. Relationships are complex. Refrain from demanding your friend leave the partner or reach out for help. Making demands may prevent them from reaching out to you or others for help in the future. 


  • Help brainstorm options. Asking, “Have you thought of some ideas to get more support?” may open the door to more conversation. Familiarize yourself with and share community resources such as the Domestic Violence Hotline. 



Your friend may be hesitant to reach out for help at first. Keep the door open for future conversations. Every situation is different, but the best thing anyone can do is lead with compassion and listen. 

This website collects cookies to deliver better user experience.

We collect cookies to analyze our website traffic and performance; we never share any personal data. View our Privacy Policy.