Getting pregnant is not as easy as everyone thinks. In fact, there is only a short window when you can get pregnant. Here is a list of when you can and can’t get pregnant, and how you can tell if you are at risk.
We recommend getting yourself a period tracker app that can help tell you when you are probably ovulating, and we offer some advice on how to tell when you are ovulating – that is, when the egg can be fertilised by sperm. Getting pregnant is a several-stage process, which we do not go into here. Here are just the times you can and can’t get pregnant.
When you (generally) won’t get pregnant
- When you have your period (this is almost always true unless you have really short cycles, in which case near the end of your period it is vaguely possible because you could ovulate really early)
- The week before your period (this is almost always true because you have already ovulated and the egg is gone)
- From semen that has been in the open air for more than a few minutes (it dies)
- From semen on toilet seats (see point above)
- From giving someone a blow job (impossible, unless afterwards you scoop the semen into your vagina, and are ovulating at that time)
- From having someone go down on you (impossible, unless they have a mouthful of fresh semen when they do it, and you are ovulating at that time)
- From being fingered (unless someone has fresh semen or precum on their fingers, then fingers you, and you are ovulating at that time)
- If you have sex with a condom (unless the condom broke, has a hole in it, or slipped off, and you are ovulating at that time)
- If semen doesn’t get on your vulva or vagina
- If you are on birth control that prevents ovulation
- If you are birth control that physically blocks sperm from entering the cervix (like a diaphragm, sponge or condom)
- If you are postmenopausal and no longer ovulate
- If you do not have functioning ovaries and do not ovulate
- If you have been surgically sterilised
- If you haven’t started ovulating yet
- Sometimes if you have really irregular periods, it means you have irregular ovulation, and may find it much more difficult to get pregnant
- If you are on hormone treatments to transition from female to male (because you don’t ovulate)
When you can get pregnant (naturally)
- When you are ovulating, which is typically the halfway point between two periods, and fresh semen is on or in your vagina or sometimes even the vulva
- A few days before you ovulate, and have sperm that stays alive for those days inside your vagina, uterus or fallopian tube
Fun facts about getting pregnant (or not)
- A viable egg only stays that way for about 12 hours as it travels from the ovary to the uterus
- The sperm actually fertilises the egg in the fallopian tube, so if the egg makes it to the uterus unfertilised, it’s useless
- Once the egg is fertilised in the fallopian tube, to actually get pregnant the egg must implant on the side of the uterus wall, which takes a few days
- There are so many things that can go wrong when trying to get pregnant! It’s actually pretty hard
What to do if you have unprotected sex and aren’t sure if you could be pregnant or are pregnant
First, if it’s within 24-72 hours, you can get emergency contraception from a pharmacy, or use regular ‘the pill’ pills from a friend (instructions on using the regular oral contraceptive pill for emergency contraception without a doctor here). Some countries won’t have this/you may not feel comfortable doing this, so it can pay to have a stash of contraceptives for emergency use, should you or a friend need them in a pinch.
You won’t know if you are pregnant usually for about four weeks, or until your period is due and does not come. Tests will start to show up usually 2-4 weeks in as the hormone levels change, but usually you cannot tell by how you feel. Some people know, but usually we do not. Emergency contraceptives do not work after 72 hours. You can buy a test usually inexpensively in most places from a pharmacy or supermarket, or online.
You need to make sure you are or are not pregnant before undergoing any further procedures.
Medical abortions (taking pills at home)
Medical abortions can be done by taking some pills that cause you to ‘get your period’ and with it, the cells that would make up – eventually – a foetus. You are interrupting the growing process, not killing a baby. It’s not a baby. It’s cells. Feel free to ‘get your period’! You will need to see a doctor for this, and be under 10 or 12 weeks pregnant. If you live in a country where abortions are illegal or hard to come by, contact Women on Waves – they are doctors who can send you the pills in the mail.
Surgical abortions (in a clinic or hospital)
Surgical abortions are available in many countries safely and inexpensively, but usually won’t be done after 12 weeks without a good medical reason, so having a medical abortion with pills (see above) is a good, safe option where you can do it at home.
Having the baby
Of course this is the other option! Remember that while it is your body, men should have just as much right to decide if they want to become a parent as a woman so please consult with the father before making the decision to have a baby. Having a baby when you are not ready to do so – and the father is not ready to do so – in this day and age is not necessary or wise. Abortions can come with some social stigma, but you don’t ever have to tell anyone! It’s none of their business.
While nobody wants an abortion, we are supportive of the right to choose when or if we become parents – for everyone, not just women. Abortions are safe, effective, and really short! A surgical abortion is about four minutes long and is one of the most simple surgical procedures a doctor will do, and when you take the medical abortion pills, you start cramping at home, then start to ‘get your period’ and then it’s done in a few hours.
If you are really stuck, find someone you trust to talk to and get help. Being maybe pregnant when you don’t want to be can feel really scary, but we’ve all been there! (Too many times!)
Write to us if you feel really lost. We can help point you in the right direction.