Aug 30, 2010
CONTACT Margaret Conway

Partner Violence Intervention Reduces Pregnancy Coercion in New Study

Innovative Pilot Project Identifies First-Ever Clinical Strategy to Help Victims of Partner Violence Avoid Unintended Pregnancy and Further Abuse

Asking young women during family planning clinic visits if they experienced reproductive coercion dramatically reduced the odds of their male partners attempting to force them to become pregnant, a new pilot study by researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine has found. This National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study was conducted in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health, Family Violence Prevention Fund and reproductive health experts.

A brief intervention was associated with a 70 percent reduction in the odds of male partner pregnancy coercion among women who recently had experienced intimate partner violence. Study participants who were asked about reproductive coercion and then counseled about harm-reduction strategies - including switching to longer-acting contraceptives and contacting domestic and sexual-assault resources - were also 60 percent more likely to report ending a relationship because it felt unsafe or unhealthy.

“There is a strong, indisputable link between domestic and dating violence and unintended pregnancy. This study is extremely important because it identifies an effective solution that can be implemented relatively easily,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President and Founder Esta Soler. ”We need to build on these results by making this intervention the norm in health care settings throughout the nation as quickly as possible.”

Published online in the journal Contraception, the study, “A Family Planning Clinic Partner Violence Intervention to Reduce Risk Associated with Reproductive Coercion,” assesses the effectiveness of what the authors said is the first harm-reduction protocol for reducing women’s risk of becoming pregnant by abusive partners.

“This pilot study was focused on how we might better identify intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion in clinical settings and offer women specific strategies to reduce their risk of an unwanted pregnancy and increase their safety. These findings are extremely encouraging, and suggest that such clinical interventions may be useful in reducing both partner violence and unintended pregnancy,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Miller.

The study was conducted in four Northern California family-planning clinics between May 2008 and October 2009. The intervention was designed collaboratively by the UC Davis School of Medicine with the Harvard School of Public Health, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, and reproductive health experts. Family planning counselors and clinicians were trained to implement the intervention at two of the four sites. Two control sites provided standard domestic violence and sexual assault screening.  Participants included approximately 900 English- and Spanish-speaking women between 16 and 29 years old, with the vast majority of the women, 76 percent, aged 24 or younger.

This study is a follow up to the groundbreaking study published earlier this year on the prevalence of reproductive coercion and its relationship to unintended pregnancy. In that study, approximately one in five young women said they experienced pregnancy coercion and 15 percent said they experienced birth control sabotage. More than half of the 1,278 respondents said they had experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Thirty-five percent of the women who reported partner violence also reported either pregnancy coercion or birth control sabotage.

The FVPF’s kNOwMore initiative is creating a dialogue about birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion, which can result in unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, miscarriage, infertility, coerced abortion, poor birth outcomes including preterm birth and low birth-weight babies, and other serious health problems. Its website,, features the stories of women who share their experiences with birth control sabotage and reproductive coercion.

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The Family Violence Prevention Fund works to end violence against women and children around the world, because every person has the right to live free of violence. More information is available at The FVPF’s kNOwMore initiative, which examines the consequences of reproductive coercion and violence, is online at

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