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Can You Become Pregnant While You Are Menstruating?

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/6/2011

Can you become pregnant during menstruation? This is the question on many women’s minds as they go through their periods. Learn if you are likely to get pregnant while having your period.

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    Pregnancy is Possible when Menstruating

    The answer to the ever-present “Can you become pregnant while you menstruate" question is yes. You can become pregnant during your period. This is not the answer most women want to hear, but it’s what you might call an inconvenient truth.

    Lengthy sperm lives are partly to blame for this problem. Sperm can live anywhere between three to seven days in a woman’s body. Thus, if you participate in sexual intercourse right after your period, and the sperm is still alive a week later, you can become pregnant.

    Ovulation times are another factor. Most women ovulate, or become fertile, between days 13 and 16 of their cycles. If the woman had sexual intercourse during menstruation, and the sperm remained for several days, the woman’s egg might get fertilized, causing a pregnancy.

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    Menstruation is Not Birth Control

    Part of the reason women ask this question is because they are relying on science to keep them from getting pregnant. After all, women aren’t fertile all 28 days of their cycles, so it seems reasonable to assume that having sexual intercourse during their lowest hormonal peaks is a good way to prevent a pregnancy.

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Nothing is certain in the human body. A woman might not have tracked her ovulation properly, or perhaps the sperm may last inside her body longer than expected. At any rate, there are too many physical variables that inhibit menstruation from becoming a viable form of birth control.

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    Chances of Pregnancy While You're Menstruating

    Even though it is certainly possible to get an affirmative answer to the question, "Can you become pregnant during menstruation?", the chances of getting pregnant are significantly decreased.

    Here are just a few of the reasons most women are less likely of getting pregnant during their period:

    • Women are not as fertile during menstruation as during ovulation.
    • Women are most likely to be fertile the day before and the day after her egg drops.
    • The 12-16 day period between ovulation and menstruation give the existing unfertilized egg and any existing sperm some time to dissolve and expire.
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    Preventing Pregnancy While Menstruating

    The Feminist Women’s Health Center recommends women chart their periods and use fertility awareness methods to prevent becoming pregnant during their periods. Of course, other sorts of birth control during this time are also encouraged. Using a condom is a good idea regardless, as it is the best way (though never guaranteed) of preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

    These methods suggest women monitor their cervical discharges and gauge which days are the wettest and driest. Other methods include reading the Basal Body Temperature (or BBT) with a BBT thermometer. Low temperature indicate high fertility while steadily high temperatures indicate lower fertility levels.

    Remember that your safest bet to keep from getting pregnant when mestruating is to avoid sexual intercourse during this time. Otherwise, maintain doctor-recommended birth control practices to help prevent pregnancy.

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    Sources

    Feminist Women's Health Center: Fertility Awareness

    Feminist Women's Health Center: Menstrual Cycles

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