Get Real! When Can I Get Pregnant?

Anonymous asks:

If you had sex a week or days after your period can you get pregnant?

Heather replies:

a majority of women, the time period you’re talking about, a week after
your menstrual period ends, is a window of the highest fertility: in
other words, the time when most women would be at their highest pregnancy risk.

Thing is, with any question like this, we’re always going to have two equally true answers:
1) It depends on YOUR individual fertility cycle, and
2) ANY time a woman has unprotected genital sex with a cisgender
male partner — read: direct penis-to-vulva contact without a reliable
method of birth control — she has a real risk of becoming pregnant.

So, let’s chat a little about fertility cycles and what the heck I’m talking about.

If you take a look at this piece,
you can get a good idea of how the fertility and menstrual cycle works.
There are times in every woman’s cycle when she is more or less likely
to become pregnant and what that depends on is when that particular
woman ovulates; when she is near or at the end of her proliferative, or
follicular, phase and in her ovulatory phase. That is then when the
ovary ruptures and an egg is released, which can be fertilized by sperm
to create a pregnancy. For the "average" woman with an average cycle of
28 days, that day will be on day 14 (the day a woman’s period begins is
day 1).

The window after that egg is released for it to be fertilized is
about one day, however, you’ve got to remember that sperm can survive
in the vagina for anywhere from three to seven days. So, if that
average woman had intercourse where her male partner ejaculated within
her anywhere from Day 7 to day 16, she would have a high risk of
pregnancy. She may also have risks on other days in her cycle, but for
that woman, intercourse in that time period would be the time of her
highest risks.

How does someone know when they ovulate? The only way to have an
accurate idea about how one’s own fertility cycle works is to chart it,
every day, through both examining cervical mucus and by taking basal
temperatures. Every day. When we do that daily, we can see over
each cycle, when we have the kind of mucus women do when most fertile
and when we have the kind of mucus where we’re least fertile, as well
as seeing the temperature changes that happen during the different
times of our cycles. If we have a regular cycle, after several months
of doing this, we can become able to predict with a decent amount of
accuracy when, in the next cycle, we will probably be most and least

Some women may be like our average woman above. Others may ovulate
on day 11, some on day 16. And far less frequently, some women may even
ovulate more than once in a given cycle. To be clear: all women are not
the "average" woman, so we can’t know when we’re most fertile just by
counting days (which is sometimes called "the rhythm method").

Toni Weschler, the awesome author of both Taking Charge of Your Fertility — which is basically the bible when it comes to fertility charting — and Cycle Savvy, a book about cycles for teens (and she does not recommend FAM for teen women) explains more here.
And if you or your partner really want to know more about charting and
fertility, it’d be a good idea to get your hands on those books. Once a
woman gets the hang of charting, it’s not all that complicated, but at
first, it really is detailed and involved enough that it’s something
one needs a good book for.

Without doing all of that daily homework with charting, we have no
way of knowing when that happens, save after the fact. As well, using
charting as a method of birth control — often called Natural Family
Planning or the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM)
— is only recommended for a) women whose cycles have regulated, which
often is not the case with teen women b) couples who are ready for a
potential pregnancy, c) couples where the male partner is in real
cooperation with the female partner in abstaining from
genital-to-genital sex in and around the fertile window (or where a
backup method of birth control will be used then) and d) couples who
have practiced all the parts of safer sex — latex barriers, monogamy
and screenings, for at least six months before going without barriers
— to know their STI (sexually transmitted infection) risks are
minimal. Generally, FAM is only a good choice for women with all three
of those factors accounted for, and tends to be best for women who know
they can and will chart without fail, who have problems with,
objections to, or lack of access to other reliable methods of birth
control, or who are using charting in conjunction with another sound
method of birth control.

It’s likely obvious at this point that for teens, this isn’t a sound
method, and just guessing and gambling isn’t a sound method for ANYONE.
If you or your partners do NOT wish to become pregnant, you need to
only be having genital-to-genital sex IF using a reliable method of
birth control which you can use properly. Charting probably isn’t it,
but that’s not a big deal since there are a LOT of reliable methods out
there, most of which are very easy to use — and involve less effort
than charting does — and are affordable.

Of course, the other big issue here is that FAM doesn’t protect
anyone from sexually transmitted infections, which are really a bigger
risk, especially for young people, than pregnancy is. Around one out of
every four young adults between the ages of 15 and 22 has an STI
(around one of every ten sexually active teen women in the U.S. will
become pregnant). Teens and young adults are the fastest growing group
of people with sexually transmitted infections. The bonus is that the
method (sparing not having genital sex at all) that protects everyone
from STIs best is also a reliable, inexpensive and easy-to-use method
of birth control too: the condom.

When any person is really ready for partnered sex that poses STI
and/or pregnancy risks, they also have to be really ready to deal with
safer sex and birth control. If you or your partners are not, then the
very best thing you can do is just to wait until you are. Not only is
that best for your physical health, it’s best for your emotional
well-being. Plus, sex can only be so fun when you’re freaking out
before, after and/or during it because you know you’re taking risks you
shouldn’t be. What a drag!

If you need help working out reliable birth control methods and
safer sex, you can talk to your doctor, gynecologist or to any family
planning clinic, like Planned Parenthood. Any of those folks can help
you find out what methods are best for you and yours, show you how to
use them, and help you obtain them.

Here are a few more links to help you out:

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  • invalid-0

    I had just finished my period about a week ago, and me and my boyfriend had unprotected sex last night,could i get pregnant?

  • heather-corinna

    Check out that piece again.  You’ll see that the answer is that you certainly can.


    If you do not want to become pregnant, then you may want to consider using eremergency contraception (Plan B).  The sooner you take it (within 120 hours), the more likely it is to work, and taking it within 24 hours is the most ideal, which you could do given the timing.

  • invalid-0

    I enjoyed reading the article on how the fertility and menstrual cycle works. Even though I had a fair knowledge on this the chart provided some more insights on this.
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  • invalid-0

    First of all I have to make a confession! When I see your smiling face I’m always excited and looking forward to reading next theme you are discovering here! This topic about periods I’ve found very helpful for me. Thanks a lot!