The Unexpected Child

How Could It Happen? You Were Using Birth Control!

Although more than 90 percent of sexually active women in the United States between ages 15 and 44 have used at least one form of contraception, about half of all pregnancies are unintended. Clearly, birth-control methods don't always work as planned.

The odds depend upon the type you use. Condoms, for example, have a 15 percent failure rate due to breakage, slippage, or incorrect usage. The pill, if used perfectly, has a one-in-1,000 chance of failure -- but the odds plummet to just eight in 100 if you accidentally miss a day or don't take it at the same time each day. And then there's the rhythm method, which involves tracking your menstrual cycle to determine when you're most likely to conceive: It has one of the highest failure rates of all types of contraception, says Dr. Ashton.

Another pitfall: relying on breastfeeding as a birth-control measure. While exclusive breastfeeding is a very good form of contraception, it's not perfect -- it's about 90 percent effective when women are nursing at least five times a day, says Dr. Ashton. Experts recommend that breastfeeding moms use backup contraception, like progesterone-only pills (they're safe for nursing women). This is crucial when you begin pumping or supplementing with formula since the chance you'll get pregnant increases.

Whichever method it was that failed, you may feel ashamed that you "slipped up" and got pregnant anyway. Melanie Bailey remembers a stinging remark her mother made after she and her husband discovered they were expecting their third child (despite using condoms and taking the pill). "She actually asked, 'How can two college educated people get pregnant by accident?'" says Bailey, of Bossier City, Louisiana.

The good news is that although women might be conflicted initially, the feelings always pass, says Dr. Ashton: "That's why pregnancy takes nine months -- it takes that long for your body and mind to catch up with each other and for those things to mesh with the logistics of your life."

Find a Baby Name

Browse by

or Enter a name

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment