Secret Pregnancy/Secret Child Trope: Ideas for Writing an Accidental Pregnancy

Secret Pregnancy/Secret Child Trope: Ideas for Writing an Accidental Pregnancy

I have a confession. I hate the secret child trope. It always breaks my heart for the man who loses so much time with his child. I’m not a huge fan of the secret pregnancy trope either. Romance characters are driven, independent, focused, and smart, so how do they accidentally get pregnant?

Along with my own writing, I ghost write, and my client has me write a lot…I mean A LOT…of secret pregnancy and secret child books. As I prepared to start a new series of five books, all with an accidental pregnancy (one is a secret child), I was stuck in finding new ways a couple would accidentally be pregnant without being irresponsible.

I posed the question in a romance author Facebook Group: What are other ways a couple can end up accidentally pregnant that doesn’t involve antibiotics, St. Johns Wort, or being drunk? (Note, I don’t like the drunk scenario as it brings up questionable consent.)

I got so many answers and the thing that surprised me the most was how many said they were the product of or their children were the product of failed birth control pills. Plus, I got a ton of other interesting true-life stories of accidental pregnancy, and few ideas to consider.

Here is the list of ways you could write an unexpected pregnancy in a secret pregnancy or secret child romance:

(Note: These are ideas shared in the Facebook group. Except for medications, I haven’t researched to verify these claims)

Failed Birth Control

As I said, I was shocked at how many authors posted personal stories about failed birth control. Some of them more than once. My research suggested failed birth control would be rare enough that having a group of women (as appear in a series) all have failed birth control would be far-fetched (How many women in your friend group had an accidental pregnancy?) As it turns out, an unexpected pregnancy when using contraception isn’t that uncommon.

Below are a few reasons hormone-based contraceptives might fail:

Interaction with Medications, Supplements, or Other Ingestible Item

  • Antibiotics
  • St. Johns Wort
  • Low-dose or non-estrogen birth control often prescribed for women who have migraines with aura
  • Activated charcoal which is popular in skin care, supplements, cleanses, and food (including ice cream and pizza). It’s designed to remove toxins, including medications.

Illness or Conditions

  • Flu or other illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, in which case the pill can be expelled before being absorbed.
  • A bicornuate uterus, which is essentially having two uteruses. The women who posted this condition indicated that each uterus acted independently; sometimes brith control worked well on one but not the other. She also indicated that it can lead to high-risk pregnancy as the uteruses are half-normal size.
  • Allergies. It seems like if a character was allergic to one form of birth control, they could use another, but you could conceivably create a scenario in which all birth control was problematic.

Other Birth Control Fails

  • Failed vasectomy or tubal ligation were listed as the culprit for an unexpected pregnancy by several women in the group. In a twist, one woman shared that her mother blamed a failed vasectomy on her pregnancy to hide an affair. The vasectomy occurred 5-years earlier.
  • Condom slips off or breaks
  • NuvaRing slips out of place, is expelled, or breaks.
  • Pill-fail. Several women reported using the pill correctly and still getting pregnant. A few women said that the birth control pill was sometimes less effective on curvier women.

A Diagnosis of Infertility that’s Wrong

  • Endometriosis can make it difficult to get pregnant. Several women were told they had little chance of getting pregnant, in which case, why use birth control?
  • Injury can lead to infertility for both men and women, but sometimes the doctor is wrong, and a pregnancy occurs.

Human Error

  • Passion turns off common sense
  • Rythem Method is an age old method of contraception that requires a woman to be sure about her fertile and not-fertile days in her cycle. Since sperm can live inside the woman’s womb for up to five days, even if she’s not fertile during the sexual act, if she becomes fertile in the next few days, she can end up pregnant.
  • Forgetting to take a birth control pill or not taking it at the same time daily
  • Switching birth control or not using it right after a vasectomy or tubal ligation. Several women in the group indicated they got pregnant when having sex too soon after changing birth control pills, or after a vasectomy or tubal ligation.


Do you have other ideas on how an accidental pregnancy can occur in a romance novel? Let me know in the comments below!


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  1. While this isn’t my favorite trope I have read some truly creative ways an accidental pregnancy could occur. I think my favorite wasn’t exactly an accident but the daddy shipped out the next week after a one-night stand and found out three years later after returning to town.

    1. Going off to the military is one I’ve seen. For me it’s always about why they don’t use contraception. But I’ve learned that even the pill fails a lot more than the package says.