Journal Article

Women’s and girls’ experiences of reproductive coercion and opportunities for intervention in family planning clinics in Nairobi, Kenya: A qualitative study

Reproductive coercion (RC), which includes contraceptive sabotage and pregnancy coercion, may help explain known associations between intimate partner violence (IPV) and poor reproductive health outcomes, such as unintended pregnancy. In Kenya, where 40% of ever-married women report IPV and 35% of ever-pregnant women report unintended pregnancy, these experiences are pervasive and co-occurring, yet little research exists on RC experiences among women and adolescent girls. This study seeks to qualitatively describe women’s and girls’ experiences of RC in Nairobi, Kenya and opportunities for clinical intervention.

Qualitative data were collected as part of the formative research for the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to address reproductive coercion and IPV in clinical family planning counselling and provision in Nairobi, Kenya in April 2017. Focus group discussions (n = 4, 30 total participants) and in-depth interviews (n = 10) with family planning clients (ages 15–49) were conducted to identify specific forms of reproductive coercion, other partner-specific barriers to successful contraception use, and perceived opportunities for family planning providers to address RC among women and girls seeking family planning services. Additionally, data were collected via semi-structured interviews with family planning providers (n = 8) and clinic managers (n = 3) from family planning clinics. Data were coded according to structural and emergent themes, summarized, and illustrative quotes were identified to demonstrate sub-themes. Kenyan family planning providers and administrators informed interpretation.

The results of this study identified specific forms of pregnancy coercion and contraceptive sabotage to be common, and often severe, impeding the use of contraceptives among female family planning clients. This study offers important examples of women’s strategies for preventing pregnancy despite experiencing reproductive coercion, as well as opportunities for family planning providers to support clients experiencing reproductive coercion in clinical settings.

Reproductive coercion is a critical barrier to modern contraceptive use in Kenya. Results from this study highlight opportunities for family planning providers to play a critical role in supporting women and girls in their use of contraception when reproductive coercion is present.