Race and Reproductive Coercion: A Qualitative Assessment

Cara Nikolajski, Elizabeth Miller, Heather L. McCauley, Aletha Akers, Eleanor Schwarz, Lori Freedman, Julia Steinberg, Said Ibrahim, Sonya Borrero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background: Unintended pregnancy is common and disproportionately occurs among low-income and African-American (AA) women. Male partners may influence women's risk of unintended pregnancy through reproductive coercion, although studies have not assessed whether racial differences in reproductive coercion impact AA women's disparate risk for unintended pregnancy. We sought to describe women's experiences with pregnancy-promoting behaviors by male partners and explore differences in such experiences by race. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with low-income, AA and White women aged 18 to 45 years recruited from reproductive health clinics in Western Pennsylvania to explore contextual factors that shape women's contraceptive behaviors. Narratives were analyzed using content analysis and the constant comparison method. Findings: Among the 66 participants (36 AA and 30 White), 25 (38%) described experiences with male partner reproductive coercion. Narratives provided accounts of contraceptive sabotage, verbal pressure to promote pregnancy and specific pregnancy outcomes, and potential motives behind these behaviors. AA women in the sample reported experiences of reproductive coercion more often than White women (53% and 20%, respectively). AA women were also more likely than White women to attribute a current or prior pregnancy to reproductive coercion. AA women identified relationship transiency and impending incarceration as potential motivations for men to secure a connection with a female partner via pregnancy. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that reproductive coercion may be a factor contributing to disparities in unintended pregnancy. More research, including population-level studies, is needed to determine the impact of reproductive coercion on unintended pregnancy and to understand the social and structural factors associated with pregnancy-promoting behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-223
Number of pages8
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery
  • Health(social science)


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