could I be pregnant?

We get more questions about pregnancy than any other topic:

  • We had sex with our clothes on, could I be pregnant?
  • He came outside my vagina, could I be pregnant?
  • Can I get pregnant during my period?
  • We had sex without using birth control, what do I do now?
  • When will I know and how can I tell if I'm pregnant?
  • What do I do if I might be pregnant?

Before we answer each one of these questions, here's an explanation of how you get pregnant:

First of all, you need to know a little bit about the menstrual cycle. You probably know that a woman gets her period once a month. About two weeks after her period starts, the woman ovulates--that means she releases an egg. The egg then travels down the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. If it doesn't run into any sperm along the way and get fertilized, the egg leaves the woman's body and she has her next period like usual.

The sperm, for their part, swim up to the fallopian tubes from the vagina and hang around looking for an egg. Usually, the sperm need to be released inside the vagina to make it up there. Sometimes, if the sperm are released very, very near to the mouth of the vagina, they can find their way inside. But this is very unusual.

A woman is fertile--meaning she can get pregnant--while an egg is in the fallopian tube. The sperm can live inside a woman for up to 5 to 7 days, so it's possible to get pregnant when you have sex several days before you ovulate because the sperm will be there already waiting for the egg. Likewise, the egg will survive (unfertilized) 24-48 hours after ovulation, so you can easily get pregnant during that time.

This means women are most likely to get pregnant for the two weeks in the middle of their cycle. In other words, one week after their last period started until one week before their next is the most likely time.

However, women's cycle's can be different! We've told you the "textbook" version of how most women's bodies work, not everyone's. Even though ovulation normally happens in the middle of the month, a woman can ovulate at any time. Many things make our cycles change, including changes in diet, changes in the environment and stress.

So it's never "safe" to have sex unless you do it with a condom.

Now let's answer those questions:

We had sex with our clothes on, could I be pregnant?

No. If you had sex in your jeans, shorts, underwear or bathing suit, there's no way you can be pregnant. Sperm can't swim through clothes and continue traveling into the vagina.  Sperm can only swim in liquids--like semen and vaginal fluid.

He came outside my vagina, could I be pregnant?

It's very unlikely. If the sperm were deposited very, very near the mouth of the vagina, there is a small chance it could make it inside. But this is very rare. If the sperm weren't close to the vagina (like on your thigh or near your butthole) then the answer's no. Those little guys just can't swim that far.

But, if his penis was inside your vagina at any time, then you could get pregnant.  Guys don't always pull-out (the very unreliable withdrawal method!) fast enough and some sperm could be released inside your vagina.  So don't have vaginal intercourse without using a condom or some other reliable form of birth control!

We had sex without using birth control, what do I do now?

If you had unprotected sex or your birth control failed (like the condom broke) you have two choices. You have up to 5 days from the time you had sex to get the morning-after-pill, also called Plan B. Plan B is available at the drugstore for women and men 17 years or older. Younger women need a prescription from a health clinic. Visit the Emergency Contraception website to find out more:   www.NOT-2-LATE.com. Or you can wait and see if your period comes on time and get a pregnancy test if it doesn't. 

Can I get pregnant during my period?

Yes, but it's very unlikely. Most women do not ovulate during their period.  However, eggs may live for 2 days and sperm may live for 5-7 days inside a woman's body.  They could finally meet up during menstruation, but it's rare.  Plus, menstrual blood can transmit HIV, so you should definitely practice safe sex during your period. 

When will I know and how can I tell if I'm pregnant?

Wait until you miss a period. Once the egg and sperm hook-up, the fertilized egg still has to travel down to the uterus, which takes about a week. Often, the fertilized egg just keeps going and gets flushed out of your system with your menstrual cycle. It's not until the fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus that you are officially pregnant. That's when your body starts making new hormones and responding. A pregnancy test won't be accurate until your period is due because it tests for pregnancy hormones. Now just because you miss a period doesn't mean you're definitely pregnant. Many things can cause a period to be late, especially stress (like worrying about if you're pregnant). Some other symptoms of pregnancy--like nausea, tender breasts, high emotions--are also signs that your period is coming! Some women don't get any symptoms except a missed period. So the only way to really know if you are pregnant is to get a pregnancy test. And remember, if you just recently had unprotected sex, you have up to 5 days from the time you had sex to get the morning-after-pill (called Plan B at the drugstore). Visit the Emergency Contraception website to find out more: www.NOT-2-LATE.com.

What do I do if I think I might be pregnant?

Wait to see if you get your period and then get a pregnancy test. While you're waiting, try not to stress-out about it, since there's really not much you can do until your period is due. If your period is late--or you think it might be late and you're not sure--then get a pregnancy test. You can start with a home kit from the drugstore, but we really recommend you go to a clinic because people do get the wrong results with home tests. There are many places where you can get a free pregnancy test: try Planned Parenthood for starters:  1-800-230-PLAN or www.plannedparenthood.org. However, watch out for bogus clinics that advertise using phrases like "crisis pregnancy" or "pregnant and scared?". They offer free pregnancy tests, but they are not real clinics.  They are run by anti-abortion groups and hope to scare you out of choosing abortion.

Once you miss a period, there's no reason to wait to get a pregnancy test. The sooner you know, the sooner you can either relax if you're not pregnant or start thinking about what you want to do next if you are pregnant.

If we haven't answered your question or something confuses you, please read the "Could I Be Pregnant?" page in the main section of this website: Just Say Yes!


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