Summary This paper examines the proposition that sexual and contraceptive behaviours mediate the relationship between the pregnancy desires of young, unmarried women and their having an unplanned pregnancy. The sample consisted of 854 18- to 19-year-old women living in Michigan, USA. First, the positive and negative pregnancy desires of these women were measured, as were the women's perceptions of the positive and negative desires of their sexual partners. Then the extent to which these four types of desires, as well as several types of interactions between them, prospectively predicted the occurrence of subsequent pregnancies were tested with logistic regression analyses, initially alone and then after the addition of several types of sexual and contraceptive mediator variables. The results demonstrated that four of the ten significant motivational predictors became non-significant following the introduction of the contraceptive mediator variables and that the predictive strength of the other six significant motivational predictors was substantially reduced by their introduction. A number of factors that may account for only a partial mediational effect in some models are discussed.