At a time when abortion was not readily available, among married women over half of unintended pregnancies occurred with no use or discontinued use of contraception. Many of these contraceptive drifters had prior experience with effective contraception. Contraceptive drifting was more common for low parity births. Different characteristics differentiated drifters from contraception failures in low- (1–2) and high- (3+) parity women. Among low-parity women, more drifting was found where the husband was enthusiastic about having the child, the woman's education or occupation was low, the husband's occupation was craftsman or operative, his education was low or his income was high. Among high-parity women, drifting was more common for white mothers, those with a previous marriage or a child by another father, or for mothers or fathers with low education. Policy implications of these findings are discussed.