Intimate partner violence is widespread worldwide. While assumed to impact women’s ability to use contraceptive methods, few data are available to support this claim. In this study, eight focus group discussions were conducted to guide questionnaire development and to provide contextual information. Participants were women who were currently using the pill and women who had used the pill previously. In addition, 300 women were interviewed who initiated oral contraceptive pill use between December 1995 and April 1996. Participants were interviewed 3–6 months later to investigate the role intimate partner violence played in covert pill use and pill discontinuation. Special study procedures for asking women questions about violence were employed. Nineteen per cent of the women interviewed were using the pill covertly. The odds of covert pill use were four times higher in El Alto and La Paz than in Santa Cruz. Women who used the pill covertly were more likely to have experienced method-related partner violence (OR=21.27) than women whose partners knew of their pill use. One-third of the women had discontinued pill use at the time of the interview. In the final multivariate analysis, having experienced side-effects (OR=2.37) was a significant predictor of pill discontinuation and method-related partner violence was marginally predictive (OR=1.91; 95% CI 1.0–3.66). While efforts are ongoing to incorporate men into family planning programmes, some male partners oppose, and in some situations violently oppose, contraceptive use. The needs of women with these types of partners must not be overlooked.
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