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Contraception Deception

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Her husband made it clear he wanted a big family. He wanted lots and lots of kids to inoculate himself against loss and Claire had tried and tried with him until she had agreed to go see a fertility expert who had informed Claire that she couldn't have children because she had an IUD and was taking birth control pills.

Ideally, partners in a sexual relationship are in agreement over whether or not they're willing to have a child together.

This doesn't always happen.

Contraception Deception is when one partner lies about their reproductive status in order to have sex with the other partner. It comes in three varieties:

  • Claiming Sterility: One partner insists that there's no need for contraception because they're unable to impregnate or be impregnated. A male might claim he's had a vasectomy or suffered some illness/injury (such as testicular cancer) that left him capable of sex but sterile. A female could claim to have gotten a tubal ligation or hysterectomy, or simply say she's on a contraceptive implant or the pill. Either way, the other partner freely engages in what should be consequence-free sex — no kid can result, it's just for fun. And then the woman's pregnancy test is positive. Depending on the exact setup, this can result in The Baby Trap.
  • Claiming Fertility: One partner wants a child, the other doesn't but for some reason can't just tell the other one so. Instead, the no-child partner continues having sex but takes private precautions to ensure no child results. A man might come up with an excuse to "go out of town for a few days" but instead use that time to get a vasectomy. The woman might find someplace she can hide a stash of birth control pills from her partner.
  • Sabotaging Contraception: The partner who wants a child takes an active role in ensuring his/her partner's contraception fails. The classic example is poking holes in a condom, though most condom failures are obvious enough that the guy really should notice. If the male is the one wanting children, he can either slip the woman something that interferes with hormonal birth control or steal her pills (possibly replacing them with placebos). note  This is another way to set up The Baby Trap. It's also a way to establish the saboteur as a jerkass, and in Real Life is one way domestic abusers maintain control over their victims. Another scenario is slipping off the condom partway through intercourse, though this is usually done more to increase sexual pleasure, rather than to purposely try to get their partner pregnant. If the woman is the one sabotaging the contraception, an even squickier method may be to inseminate herself with the contents of the used condom.

For any form of this trope to be in play, there has to be active deception (or sabotage) involved. Honest mistakes do not count.

Don't Try This at Home. Lying about using contraception and then having sex with someone who would not otherwise consent to have sex is considered rape-by-fraud in some jurisdictions. Besides the legal matters, conning someone into having a child they don't want or aren't ready for can seriously screw up both their lives and that of the resulting child. In real life, people thrust into parenthood against their will don't always transform into loving and competent parents the way they do in fiction. Even if they don't become outright abusive, they may end up just going through the motions, trying to emulate what is expected of them but failing to meet the child's emotional needs while their own mental health deteriorates. See also The Baby Trap.

One character who might do this is the Stalker with a Test Tube. Subtrope of Surprise Pregnancy. Compare But We Used a Condom! when safe sex practices simply fail, and But I Can't Be Pregnant! when the woman was thought to be infertile. And A Mistake Is Born, if a child was born as the result of said deception. See also Fake Pregnancy, in which a female character isn't pregnant but claims to be.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Eden: It's an Endless World!, Sophia the cyborg hacker did that in her youth, having unprotected sex claiming she was on the pill, undergoing pregnancies, and giving the resulting kids to adoptive homes.

    Fan Works 
  • Accidentally done in a Poor Communication Kills way in Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Apparently during the one-night stand that sired Trunks, Bulma asked Vegeta if he was wearing protection and he affirmed that he was. Turns out said "protection" was his Saiyan Armor, not a condom.
  • Vow of Nudity: Fiora's mother offers to smuggle her some silphium to sabotage the Mating Ceremony she's about to unhappily participate in for their clan.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Discussed in the film Conspiracy; when one Nazi official mentions that Jews and other undesirables could be sterilized instead of killed outright, another official mentions that they themselves could get a (false) certificate that they too have been sterilized, in the event of future sexual encounters.
  • In Educating Rita, Rita's husband Denny wants to start a family, but she wants to wait while she finishes a degree. He already doesn't understand why she wants to do that, so she takes the pill in secret while pretending to try to conceive. When he finds her stash, he burns her books and they break up soon after.
  • In The Invisible Man (2020), Cecelia confesses that she had been secretly taking birth control pills without telling her husband Adrian because she knew if they had a child, then she would never be able to leave him. However, Adrian's brother Tom tells her that Adrian found out about her deception and swapped her birth control pills for "something else". Late in the film, Cecelia learns that she is pregnant.
  • In Lakeview Terrace, the wife Lisa gets pregnant even though she and her husband Chris had agreed to wait, especially when they're dealing with a psycho cop neighbor. Chris is not happy about this, and it turns out she had stopped taking her birth control pills. She claims she forgot, but it's pretty clear she was getting fed up with waiting and probably did it on purpose. They ultimately decide to have the child.
  • In Parenthood, Susan pokes holes in her diaphragms to get pregnant.
  • In The Skeleton Twins, Maggie is secretly taking birth control pills to prevent having a child with her husband Lance to the point where he thinks he's infertile. He finds out about the pills — and her infidelity — later on.
  • In Your Sister's Sister, Jack and Hannah (who is a lesbian) get drunk and sleep together. Later, Hannah's sister Iris brings up in conversation that Hannah wants a child. After hearing this, Jack inspects the used condom, and to his horror finds multiple small holes in it. The film ends with all three waiting for the results of a pregnancy test.
  • In the 1992 movie Rich In Love, Billy confesses to his young sister-in-law Lucille that he deliberately punched a hole in a condom to get her sister Rae pregnant because he wanted her to marry him.

  • In 365 Days, Massimo pulls off both variations. First, he implants birth control into Laura's arm without her permission or knowledge. Then it turns out he lied about this and it was a tracker he had implanted; he actually wants to get Laura pregnant so she will be more inclined to stay with him. He's the love interest, by the way.
  • City of No End: Layna Kendar is secretly taking contraception to hide her affair. Ywain Kendar and Maud Atlee investigate her in order of making her stop so that she can produce an alternate heir for House Kendar.
  • The Duke and I, first novel of The Bridgerton Series, plays both Type 1 and Type 3 with a side of Miss Conception. The series is set in Regency England, and it's a plot point that romantic lead Daphne Bridgerton does not know how babies are made — especially as her mother Violet botches The Talk quite badly. Thus, when Daphne's new husband, Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings — who refuses to have children to spite his late father — uses what The Other Wiki calls coitus interruptus, she doesn't understand the significance. Once she does, she engages in a Type 3 Baby Trap by seducing him while he's too drunk to protest — or control himself. This is, by any legal definition, sexual assault, and the novel attracted some controversy for not addressing the Double Standard Rape: Female on Male. (Imagine how we'd treat the situation if it were Gender Flipped.)
  • The Casual Vacancy (as well as its TV series adaptation): Krystal Weedon is trying to get pregnant as a teen mother to qualify for government housing (because she intends to take her baby brother along). Thus she dissuades Fats Walls, her boyfriend, from using condoms by lying that she is already on contraceptive pills.
  • Earth's Children
    • In The Clan of the Cave Bear, Iza, a medicine woman, would secretly prepare and drink a contraceptive herbal tea to stick it to her abusive mate, as he felt humiliated by the fact he hadn't fathered any sons. She did eventually get pregnant as the tea isn't 100% reliable, but her mate died before the baby was born and she gave birth to a girl.
    • Ayla secretly provides Ovra with the contraceptive tea Iza told her about, as Ovra will probably never have a living child, and the physical and emotional toll of the multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, and stillbirths she goes through could end up killing her one day.
    • Ayla herself starts taking the contraceptive tea without telling her lover Jondalar in The Plains of Passage; they both want children but as they're in the middle of a long and dangerous journey to Jondalar's homeland a pregnancy would be far from ideal. She does consider telling him but doesn't get around to it, as Iza had ingrained in her not to tell men about the tea as some may react badly to finding out women can control their fertility. It doesn't help that most people in the setting don't understand how pregnancy occurs, namely not realizing that sexual intercourse is a big component; Ayla figures it out and tells Jondalar of her theories, but he's a bit skeptical. Jondalar privately worries over the fact Ayla hasn't gotten pregnant yet, believing there may be something wrong with him (as he knows Ayla has previously given birth) although a shaman he confides in suggests that the Great Mother knows they're not yet ready for a baby. After the most difficult part of their journey is over, Ayla impulsively decides not to drink the tea and quickly gets pregnant.
  • In Headhunters, Clas Greve enlists Diana Brown's help in killing her husband Roger by promising to give her a child, the one thing Roger has consistently denied her. Clas neglects to mention that he happens to be sterile, the result of a grievous testicular injury he received years earlier, and thus would never be able to impregnate her.
  • In Kris Longknife: Unrelenting, Kris and about 70 other women under her command have Surprise Pregnancies because a disgruntled supply noncom sabotaged their contraceptive implants. This was meant as a protest against Kris relaxing fraternization regulations for practical reasons and ends with the petty officer being summarily discharged and sentenced to hard labor in the manure works. Kris and her husband decide to keep the baby.
  • In The Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick, Queen Matilda secretly uses a crude counterpart of modern contraceptive sponges, as she doesn't want to have a child with her second husband Geoffrey (with whom she has a very stormy Dating Catwoman relationship). Since securing an heir is one of the main reasons for the marriage, Geoffrey is furious when he accidentally finds out.
  • In Pretty Girls, Claire lies to Paul that she wants children (which he does), but she continues taking birth control, because of her Freudian Excuse of losing her older sister Julia when she was a kid and Julia was a teenager. This turns out to be Laser-Guided Karma, though, for Paul, who created videos of himself raping, torturing, and killing kidnapped girls, and there's a pretty strong implication that he wanted kids to abuse.
    Her husband made it clear he wanted a big family. He wanted lots and lots of kids to inoculate himself against loss and Claire had tried and tried with him until she had agreed to go see a fertility expert who had informed Claire that she couldn't have children because she had an IUD and was taking birth control pills.
  • A Company of Stars, the first Starship Troupers novel by Christopher Stasheff, opens with the narrator escaping a Shotgun Wedding, and he notes that while he doesn't know exactly what the girl he was with did, the setting has so many types of contraceptive pill that it is literally impossible to get pregnant by accident, and she must have taken something that counteracted his pill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 2point4 Children: In "Whoopee We're All Going to Die", Rhona wants a child and gets her boyfriend Tony to agree he will impregnate her promising him that won't have to have a role in the child life if he didn't want. However, when it comes down to doing the deed, Rhona struggles to get an unresponsive Tony in the mood who finally confesses at the end of the episode that he's just not ready to be a father even if he wasn't involved. Seemingly accepting it, Rhona suggests as they're already here to just have sex for the fun of it, which Tony can agree with. However, the last shot shows her poking a hole in his condom with a needle.
  • In About a Boy: Andy thinks Laurie is pregnant since she's showing all the usual signs. It turns out Andy never got the vasectomy Will badgered him not to get - then "faked" a vasectomy for Laurie's benefit.
  • Big Love: Nikki Grant (raised as a fundamentalist Mormon) tells her family she wants to get pregnant. When she doesn't, the family takes her to a doctor who informs her that she won't get pregnant as long as she's taking birth control. She quietly accepts the doctor's offer to refill the prescription.
  • black•ish episode "Sex, Lies, and Vasectomies": Bow learns that her husband Dre never had the vasectomy he had supposedly scheduled a few years ago and waits to see if he'll tell her the truth.
  • The first season of Bridgerton, the Netflix series produced by Shonda Rhimes, preserves the sexual assault from the original novel, though it is downplayed by having Daphne instead get on top of a sober Simon and stay there. This trades rape for the lesser charge of "Nonconsensual insemination," which is still a form of criminal battery (even if it's the woman who consents to the batter).
  • Charmed (1998): Cole becomes possessed by the Source of Evil midway through the fourth season. After he and Phoebe get married, The Seer provides him with chocolates to give Phoebe that have been laced with a tonic that will override any birth control measures she's on. Two episodes later, Phoebe's doctor confirms that she's pregnant (after first getting a false negative on a home test).
  • There's a CSI: Miami episode where the victim turned out to have about a hundred children via sperm donation. He'd had a secret vasectomy and told his wife he was infertile; she found out the truth after she was too old to have children, so she killed him.
  • A common plot thread in Desperate Housewives.
    • In Season 1, Crazy Jealous Guy Carlos replaces Gaby's birth control pills with sugar pills, and she gets pregnant. She has a Convenient Miscarriage, just as she's starting to warm up to the idea of having children.
    • In Season 3, Edie and Carlos agree that they'll try for a baby, but Edie continues taking birth control pills. When Carlos finds out, he breaks up with Edie.
    • In Season 6, Carlos reveals he lied to Gaby about having a vasectomy, because he hoped they'd have a son. (They already have two daughters. However, they ultimately don't have another child, but Gaby forgives him easily.)
  • A rich girl was knocked up on Santa Barbara. Kirk Cranston knocked up his rich wife Eden after replacing her birth control pills with placebos.
  • Subverted in Downton Abbey, Bates and his wife Anna agree to try to have children but after some time passes Anna is still not pregnant. Then Bates finds a diaphragm in Anna's stuff, leading him to believe that she is sabotaging their attempts to have children. It turns out that she is not; the diaphragm is for her employer Lady Mary, who is sleeping with Anthony Gillingham but doesn't want any extra-marital children.
  • In Gilmore Girls, when Sookie is in the hospital giving birth to her second child with Jackson, she demands he have a vasectomy on the spot. Later in the series, it turns out he lied about getting it. This was a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as Melissa McCarthy was expecting and the producers didn't want to engage in any Hide Your Pregnancy antics; as a result, Sookie and Jackson add a third child to their brood.
  • The Good Wife: Sleazy rich guy Colin Sweeney is sued for child support by an ex-mistress claiming he got her pregnant. He insists to his attorneys at Lockhart and Gardner that he always used condoms with her, but after a paternity test comes back positive, family law specialist David Lee theorizes that she impregnated herself with a used condom. Ultimately, she admits to it, and Sweeney is so impressed with her audacity that he settles the suit and even resumes dating her (for a couple of seasons at least).
  • In The Haunting of Hill House (2018), Steven never told his wife that he had gotten a vasectomy before they met, despite knowing she wanted kids. In the epilogue, she's shown to be pregnant, indicating that Steven had the vasectomy reversed.
  • In Incorporated, Ben secretly installs a contraceptive implant in himself after promising his wife that they'd have a child.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: While trying to figure out who got Dee pregnant, Mac and Charlie interview all the men she slept with in that time frame, including Bill Ponderosa. Bill admits that it could be him as he lies to every woman he sleeps with that he had a vasectomy simply because he doesn't like wearing condoms. While Bill finds it hilarious, it causes Mac and Charlie to stare at him in utter disgust.
  • There was a House episode where the illness turned out to be caused by taking fertility treatments and birth control pills at the same time. Turns out that the woman was married to a man who really wanted kids, but she didn't and was unwilling to admit it to him. She went through the whole process of actively trying to get pregnant, while secretly sabotaging it, reasoning that he'd be more likely to accept infertility than a wife who just didn't want more children.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Ill-Bred", a wife spikes her husband's chewing tobacco with fertility drugs while simultaneously sabotaging his condoms to ensure that he knocks up his employer, with whom he is having an affair, in an elaborate variation of the Baby Trap.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: "Bang" involves a high-powered businessman (John Stamos) who is a "reproductive abuser", meaning he purposefully lies about using birth control and pokes holes in condoms in order to impregnate as many women as possible. He convinces his partners to get pregnant while cheating with multiple women and getting them pregnant. He gets killed because a domestic violence activist believes that There Should Be a Law.
  • In the last episode of Mad About You, Jamie convinces Paul to have a vasectomy, then to have the vasectomy reversed, then to have the vasectomy again. He doesn't go through with it the last time, and Jamie ends up pregnant (though she loses the baby in a miscarriage).
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Lois and Hal are fighting because he lied about getting a vasectomy years earlier, which led to Lois being currently pregnant with their fifth son, Jamie. When Hal tries to counter her argument on him needing a vasectomy, Lois fires back that they have a "rhythm child," a "diaphragm child," a "condom child," and "two abstinence children."
  • In one episode of Married... with Children, Al and Peg are trying for another child, because the first child born in the family would inherit a lot of money from a relative. Only Peg does not want to get pregnant again, so she is taking birth control in secret (telling Al that these pills are to improve her fertility) and enjoying much more sex than usual. Eventually, her deception comes to light and at the same time, another family member appears with a newborn baby that would get the money, so they can stop trying.
  • My Name Is Earl had an example where the deceiver is not one of the two who have sex. (Good thing since he's underage at the time.) It turns out that when Earl was a kid, he had a crush on his babysitter. When he finds out she has a boyfriend, he pokes holes in the boyfriend's condoms and she gets pregnant as a result.
  • The New Adventures of Old Christine: Tired of the side effects of her birth control pills, New Christine convinces Richard to get a vasectomy, only for Richard to chicken out and not have it done, but telling Christine he did. And just as Matthew tried to warn Richard, Christine ends up pregnant.
  • Discussed on Saturday Night Live back when Pete Davidson was dating Ariana Grande, he joked about replacing her birth control with sugar pills because he was so afraid she would leave him.
  • Scrubs:
    • Zig-zagged over a multi-episode plotline. After being incredibly relieved his ex-wife Jordan is not pregnant again, Dr. Cox gets a vasectomy without telling her. After a heartwarming speech about how she might want more kids someday, he has it reversed, again without mentioning it to her. After some Spotting the Thread on his attempts to explain away two surgeries, she and Cox have a heart-to-heart and decide they don't want more kids and Dr. Cox should get the vasectomy. Again. This one is botched, and Jordan gets pregnant again next season.
    • In one episode, Turk was slipping Carla birth control pills because she wanted to have kids before he was ready. It's somewhat played for humor when J.D. accidentally eats a brownie Turk baked the pill into and it comes up on his urine test.
  • Shameless (US): By the end of Season 5/start of Season 6, Debbie deliberately gets pregnant by lying to her boyfriend that she's on birth control in order to keep him with her. When he finds out, he says Screw This, I'm Outta Here and leaves her. Debbie still refuses to abort the pregnancy though.
  • Attempted by Gaz in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. When Donna insists he start wearing condoms when they make love, Gaz (who wants offspring) pokes a hole in the condom, intending for Donna to get pregnant. This plan fails when Gaz finds himself unable to perform while wearing the condom.
  • A flashback in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has a younger Jacqueline bragging that she's sleeping with a very rich man and lying about being on birth control. We don't hear anything more about it, but at the start of the series she's married to a very rich man and has a child with him, so...
    • In one episode, Kimmie is dating a rich guy and asks Jacqueline for advice on the relationship. Jacqueline's immediate response is "you'll need a condom and a needle".
  • Weeds: Silas and Megan's relationship threatens to finish once she leaves for college (she, a very serious student, is going to Princeton, while mediocre student Silas is going to a local school). While having a sexual marathon, Silas punctures a hole in one of their condoms in an attempt to get her pregnant so she won't leave for college.
  • In the Failed Pilot Episode of W.E.I.R.D. World, Bryan Mayhew's horribly exploitative relationship with Abby O'Reardon has remained intact solely due to him promising to provide Abby with a child. As such, Abby is enraged to discover that Mayhew secretly got a vasectomy and has been stringing her along for years, presumably for the sake of using her for credit theft. As such, Abby's revenge features her dosing Mayhew with her prototype youth serum and not giving him the antidote until he's a toddler and due to become a baby in the next few seconds, making Mayhew into the child she always wanted.

    Myth & Legend 
  • In The Bible, the tale of Onan involves a variation on "claiming fertility", as Onan was (for inheritance reasons) unwilling to father a child to his late brother's widow. Yet he pretended to go along, with fatal results.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Kara no Shoujo, Touko Kuchiki's mother was involved with Rokushiki at the time Touko was conceived, but he never told her that he was completely sterile. The implication therefore becomes that Touko has no father. The exact nature of her conception is ultimately left as a Riddle for the Ages.

  • Unsounded: Vienne and Mathis had discussed children and both declared they didn't want any and that to have them was to fall for the party line, so when Vienne got pregnant Mathis comforted her assuming it was unwanted and she'd be needing an abortion. She decided to keep it without contradicting him resulting in a son.
  • For a variant in Joyce and Walky! it's the mother of the woman who pokes holes in her future son-in-law's condoms, because she's that desperate for grandchildren. It's implied in a few timelines it works, as the moment Walky discovers Carol poking holes, fifteen of the kids from the future the Head Alien kidnapped disappeared.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!
    • Stan is alarmed to find out that Francine wants another baby. He books himself in for a vasectomy, without mentioning this to Francine, and she is utterly betrayed and angry when she finds out.
    • Stan and Francine go looking for some other adult friends so they have people to share their experiences with. Things start off good, but the younger couple turns out to be too energetic for them to keep up with. After finding out how they never have sex without multiple forms of contraceptives, Stan and Francine sneak into their house and intentionally sabotage the condoms and spermicide in order to force her to get pregnant and finally start to slow down in their lives. The truth is eventually revealed and Stan and Francine are called out for such monstrous behavior.
  • In at least one episode of Family Guy, Quagmire has sex with a woman, then reveals he didn't put on the condom he said he was going to put on.
  • In Harley Quinn (2019), Harley talks about her girlhood crush on Frankie Muniz and admitted to Ivy that she had planned to lie about being on the pill so that she would have his kid. Ivy is understandably disturbed by that.
  • In one episode of King of the Hill, cousins Bobby and Luanne become engaged in an Escalating War with pranks, and Bobby ends up replacing some of Luanne's birth control pills with Sweet Tarts. Fortunately, she notices immediately but then escalates it with the help of Hank and Peggy, who convince Bobby that his sabotage led to her getting pregnant, and therefore he must marry her.
  • A variation in The Simpsons; after Santa's Little Helper had puppies with Dr. Hibbert's dog, Homer reveals that he didn't have the heart to get him neutered after the last time Santa's Little Helper fathered puppies.
    • Another variation: Mrs. Krabbapel mentions that Bart had swapped out her birth control pills with Tic-Tacs in a Noodle Incident.