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Reproductive control by others: means, perpetrators and effects
  1. Sam Rowlands1,
  2. Susan Walker2
  1. 1 Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sam Rowlands, Centre of Postgraduate Medical Research and Education, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth BH1 3LT, UK; srowlands{at}


Background Reproductive control of women by others comprises a wide range of behaviours, from persuasion to pressure such as emotional blackmail, societal or family expectations, through to threats of or actual physical violence. It is defined as behaviours that interfere with women’s reproductive autonomy as well as any actions that pressurise or coerce a woman into initiating or terminating a pregnancy

Method Narrative review based on a search of medical and social science literature.

Results Reproductive control by others includes control or coercion over decisions about becoming pregnant and also about continuing or terminating a pregnancy. It can be carried out by intimate partners, the wider family, or as part of criminal behaviour. One form is contraceptive sabotage, which invalidates the consent given to sex. Contraceptive sabotage includes the newly-described behaviour of ‘stealthing’: the covert removal of a condom during sex. Reproductive control by others is separate from intimate partner violence but there are similarities and the phenomena overlap. Reproductive control by others is reported by as many as one quarter of women attending sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Those treating such women should be familiar with the concept and how to ameliorate its effects. Screening questions for its detection have been developed as well as interventions to reduce its risk.

Conclusions Reproductive control by others is common and those working in women’s health should be familiar with the concept and with screening tools used to detect it.

  • coercion
  • contraceptive sabotage
  • control
  • reproductive rights
  • reproductive autonomy

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  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Contributors SR conceived the idea for this review and wrote the first draft. SR and SW contributed to subsequent drafting. Both authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.