[Content warning: Mentions of intimate partner violence.]
Note: Most of this information is more specific to folks with vaginas, since most forms of birth control are designed for them. However, if you are a person with a penis, at least one of these methods will work for you.
Many people know the various forms of abuse that can take place in intimate relationships. Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual. However, one type of abuse is often left out of the discussion: reproductive coercion.
And that should change.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, reproductive coercion is “a form of power and control where one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It is sometimes difficult to identify this coercion because other forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously.”
Some examples of reproductive coercion:
- Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
- Making sure that there’s no money to purchase birth control
- Lying about using particular birth control methods (for example, claiming to have had a vasectomy)
- Tampering with hormonal birth control (for example, replacing active pills with sugar pills)
- Forcing pregnancy and/or not supporting a decision about timing when it comes to pregnancy
- Forcing or preventing a partner from getting an abortion.
Even though it’s rarely discussed, reproductive coercion is more common than you think. And the ironic thing is that memes glorify and make light of it, even though it happens so often. According to a survey conducted by a hotline, 25 percent of people said they had been victims of reproductive coercion.
If you’re in this situation and want to prevent pregnancy, cannot leave your relationship right now and possibly have access to medical care, there are some methods safer, more private methods that can help you.
The common con with these methods is that they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
1. The Shot
The Depo Provera shot is not personally my favorite form of birth control, but compared to the others, it is the most private. If you have access to a doctor and can safely get to your appointments, this is method would be best for you. The shot needs to be injected every three months for it to be the most effective.
Pros: As mentioned before, it is the most private method. Once you get the shot, no one will know you had it. On top of that, you can get it once every three months, which means three months of not having to worry about it.
Cons: Depending on the type of relationship you’re in, your partner or partner(s) might get suspicious about your doctors’ appointments. If you are in this predicament but have someone in your life who can help you create a safety plan to get the shot, go for it.
2. The Implant
If you want to prevent pregnancy but can’t make frequent doctor visits, the hormonal birth control implant might be worth considering. The procedure (depending on pain tolerance and pain threshold) is not bad at all, and once you have it in, you don’t need to take it out for four years.
Pros: Once it’s in, there isn’t much chance of complications or messing up timing or a schedule. But keep in mind risks occur with all medical procedures, and the implant insertion (which isn’t surgery) is not different.
Cons: If you live in the United States, you’ll already know what I’m going to say. The price is the biggest downside. If it is possible to get to a clinic that can provide services at low cost or no cost, this might be an option for you. Some centers can provide financial assistance. Another con is hiding the bandaging you’ll have for a while after implantation. If it is possible, try to do this procedure in the winter, when it is less common to take off all your clothes, even during sex. However, if this is not possible for you, it’s important to discuss other birth control options that might be better and safer for you.
3. The IUD
Similar to the implant, the IUD is a method to consider if you still have access to health care and can’t make doctor visits for a variety of reasons. There are multiple forms of the IUD: ParaGard is made of copper and can last up to 12 years. The Mirena is hormonal and can last up to six years. Skyla and Liletta, both cheaper generics of Mirena can last for three years.
Pros: Once it’s in, there isn’t much chance for complications or messing up timing or a schedule. As with the implant, risks occur with all medical procedures, including IUD insertion.
Cons: Like the implant, price is the biggest downside. If it is possible to get to a clinic that can provide services at low cost or no cost, this might be an option. Some centers can provide financial assistance. Also, while this doesn’t happen often, it has been done: people can pull the heck out of the IUD and throw it out. This is why it is important to discuss methods with your doctor or with an advocate who can best figure out the next best steps for you. For example, you can ask the doctor to cut the IUD strings a bit shorter.
4. The “Pull Out” Method
The formal name of this method is withdrawal method. Disliked by sex educators and civilians alike, many people don’t realize that this method can be a form of harm reduction. Even though it’s not the most effective method, it is still a form of birth control. Sometimes in a situation where your life is at risk, this is the ONLY method you can use without facing harm.
And, if used perfectly, it can prevent pregnancy. Practicing with your partner (if you can find a way to do so consensually) can make this a much more effective method.
Pros: It’s free! If you are strapped for cash and/or in an area where reproductive services are not properly accessible, this method is one to go. Also, if you are concerned about hormones, this one is hormone-free and natural.
Cons: It works until it doesn’t. And even then, coercion is possible. Your partner might decide one day not to pull out on time, or “accidentally” fail to do so. And, like other methods of birth control, it’s not 100 percent effective. If you are concerned about the pull-out method, talk to someone about creating a reproductive safety plan for yourself.
While many people want to leave their relationships, in some situations it is not possible.
If this is your situation, hopefully this guide can help you. You are not alone, and it’s important to know your options.
And if, in the end, you might have no options, that’s OK, too.