Planning parenthood

I saw her walking along Oddie Boulevard, her personal posse of progeny trundling in tow. She couldn’t have been more than 24, yet here she was, already saddled with three small children, two old enough to walk, while the baby burbled in its stroller. This somber quartet then came to a corner, exuding all the sunny cheer of a truckload of jump-suited jailbirds being dropped off on a highway litter assignment. I looked over, and my eyes met Momma’s.

She shot me a despairing look that said, “What have I done?” The look on my face replied, “It appears you were out smoking in the bathroom during birth-control class.” She re-arranged her facial features in such a way as to say, “pull-and-pray didn’t work too good.” As the light turned green, I squinched up my look to say in parting, “Aloha, hustling lass, and may your next lover be of dot com money!”

So here was yet another young gal discovering for herself that the surest, fastest, most direct way to the poverty pit is to start spittin’ out them chubby little cherubs. Seeing her reminded me of an article in the February Consumer Reports, which rated all the various methods of contraception now available.

The “little death” of sexual pleasures has always been risky business, these days even more so. On one front, you got the STD bit, and on another, you got the baby bit. This informative report concerns the various methods by which you can most successfully and healthily deal with the latter.

Consumer Reports rated contraceptives by failure rate: how many pregnancies can be expected among 100 users of a particular method. And, wisely enough, the magazine broke down the stats further, giving the failure rate of those who are diligent enough to use a method perfectly, and the failure rate of typical use, which takes into account the all-too-common “operator error.”

The pill is still a solid strategy—if you can remember to take the dang thing every day. Women who never miss a day have a failure rate of less than one percent. But the typical failure rate is more like 8 percent, giving us our first vivid example of the realities of “operator error.”

The pill’s spiffy new cousins—the birth control patch and injectable Depo Provera—are all supposed to equal the pill’s effectiveness while removing the demands of the pill’s daily schedule. The patch and injection methods especially look like keepers. Since these new methods are quite new, no reliable “typical use” stats have yet been compiled. But women are being encouraged to investigate and switch, if attracted to a particular style.

Next week—good methods, not-so-good methods, and methods that lead to overpopulation.