Many couples use ineffective methods in an attempt to avoid pregnancy, and some ex­perience unplanned pregnancies. Emergency contraception can be used when a couple fails to use contraception or uses ineffective methods.

Unreliable Birth Control

Sometimes couples rely on methods of contraception that are ineffective. They may keep their fingers crossed, hoping that they won’t get pregnant. Two ineffective methods that some couples rely on include douching and breast-feeding.


Douching involves using a syringe-type instrument to inject a stream of water (which may be mixed with other chemicals) into the vagina. In the mid-1800s, douching was actually recommended by physicians as a contraceptive. What we realize today, however, is that by the time a woman gets up to douche after intercourse, most of the sperm are already up in her cervix (Cates & Raymond, 2004). Many physicians recommend that women don’t douche at all because it has been found to lead to a higher degree of pelvic infections and STIs. Some women may believe that they need to douche in order to be clean (see the Sex in Real Life feature on page 127 of Chapter 4).


In Chapter 12, we discussed how breast-feeding can delay a woman’s fertility after child­birth. However, this is an unreliable method of birth control because it is not known
when ovulation will resume. Although she may not experience menstruation during this time, ovulation may still occur. Research has found that breast-feeding provides more than 98% protection from pregnancy in the first 6 months after giving birth (Kennedy & Trussell, 2004). However, as a woman begins to wean her child from breast-feeding, her fertility returns.