Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?

Hard Pill to Swallow: You Can Get Pregnant Any Time During Your Menstrual Cycle

Getting pregnant (or not getting pregnant) is all about timing. Although many other factors impact your fertility and your likelihood of getting pregnant when you have sex, there’s really no “safe” time of the month to have sex if you don’t want to get pregnant. So if you’re wondering if you can get pregnant on your period, the answer is: It’s complicated.

Here’s the bottom line: If you have sex without using some form of contraception, you can get pregnant at any time during your menstrual cycle. 

However, if you have sex on your period, the odds are in your favor. You are very unlikely to get pregnant on your period, but it all depends on the length of your cycle and when you ovulate (when an egg is released from your ovaries). Confused? No worries! Even if you’ve been menstruating for decades, this stuff can get confusing. Let’s take a closer look at the facts to clear things up.

The Likelihood of Pregnancy Is Lower When You Have Period Sex

Period sex is probably the safest option if a baby is not ideal right now. Why? Because you won’t ovulate for several more days, which will decrease any chance of getting pregnant during this time. 

Unfortunately, like most things in life, there are a few exceptions:

  • Menstruators who have a shorter cycle may be more likely to get pregnant after having period sex. On average, a menstrual cycle is about 28 to 30 days. But if you have a shorter cycle, you ovulate earlier. If you have sex on the last day of your period, you could potentially conceive four or five days after your period ends when you ovulate. (Remember, sperm can survive for up to 72 hours inside you.) 
  • Menstruators may mistake vaginal bleeding for a period. If you think you’re on your period, you might think it’s safe to have unprotected sex. But you might actually be mistaking vaginal bleeding for your period. It’s also possible to bleed while ovulating, which is the most fertile time of your cycle. Having sex while you’re ovulating will definitely increase your chances of getting pregnant, especially if you’re not using contraception.

Essentially, the further away from your ovulation date you have sex, the less likely you’ll be to get pregnant. Still, although it’s very unlikely you’ll get pregnant on your period, it’s not a sure guarantee.

If you recently had period sex and you’re worried that you might be pregnant, the best way to find out is with a pregnancy test. A urine test (available over the counter at drug stores and grocery stores everywhere) is the easiest and most accessible option. You can also get a blood test at your doctor’s office. A blood test can detect a pregnancy earlier than a home pregnancy test (usually as early as six to eight days after ovulation).

How Does Contraception Work?

If you don’t want to get pregnant anytime soon, it’s a good idea to use contraception, also referred to as birth control. There are many different types of birth control methods, and they all work differently. But in general, contraception works by preventing the fertilization of an egg.

  • Hormonal forms of contraception prevent pregnancy by stopping the ovaries from releasing eggs and thickening cervical mucus, which makes it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.
  • Non-hormonal forms of contraception prevent pregnancy in various ways, depending on the method, including by stopping sperm from entering the uterus.

There’s no right or wrong type of contraception — it really just comes down to what works best for your lifestyle and individual needs. If you’re considering using birth control, there are several methods that might work for you:

    • Condoms (non-hormonal): Condoms are usually made of latex or polyurethane and can be placed over the penis or inside the vagina to stop sperm from entering the vagina. They’re highly effective, accessible and affordable, and they can also protect against STDs.
    • Birth control pills (hormonal): The pill is taken daily, ideally at the same time each day. Depending on the type of pill you’re on, it will release progestin or a combination of hormones into your body.
    • The patch (hormonal): The patch works just like the pill, but instead of taking it orally, you apply it anywhere on your body (except your breasts) once a week.
    • The shot (hormonal): The shot is administered by a doctor once every three months. It’s usually injected into the arm or hip.
    • The vaginal ring (hormonal): This flexible ring is inserted into the vagina each month and can be worn for three weeks at a time.
    • Implant (hormonal): The implant is a small rod that is placed beneath the surface of the skin in the upper arm. The process is completed by a medical expert or doctor. It will prevent pregnancy for three years.
  • IUD (non-hormonal or hormonal): An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small T-shaped device that is placed inside the uterus by a medical professional. It can be made of plastic (hormonal) or copper (non-hormonal) and can prevent pregnancy for three to 10 years, depending on the type you choose.
    • Spermicide (non-hormonal): Spermicide comes in many forms, including creams, foams, film, gels and tablets. It’s placed inside the vagina before sex and works by killing sperm or stopping it from moving. You can use it with other forms of contraception, such as condoms or cervical caps.
    • Emergency contraception (hormonal and non-hormonal): You can use emergency contraception up to five days after having unprotected sex. It can either be a pill (hormonal) or copper IUD (non-hormonal).
    • Permanent birth control (non-hormonal): Permanent birth control requires a doctor to insert a non-surgical implant into the uterus to block the fallopian tubes. Or a surgical procedure can prevent pregnancy by making a person who can produce sperm unable to release sperm or a person who can ovulate unable to get pregnant.
    • Cycle tracking (non-hormonal): This method involves tracking your monthly cycle to determine when you’re most and least likely to get pregnant.

    Solutions to Avoid the Bun in the Oven

    To sum things up, if you don’t want to get pregnant, there are three basic ways you can prevent that:

  • Use contraception. Many people rely on contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Talk to your doctor to determine the best type of contraception for your lifestyle that will be safe, comfortable and effective.
  • Track your cycle. Whether you decide you use birth control or not, tracking your menstrual cycle is a great way to gauge your fertility and determine when you should or shouldn’t have sex or use contraception. 
  • Avoid having sex. Hate to be a downer, but even with contraception or fertility tracking, there is always the chance that you could get pregnant. The only way to absolutely avoid pregnancy is to not have sex. (Sorry, everyone!)

    Track Your Cycle With Aavia

    If your goal is to prevent pregnancy, the Aavia app can help. Aavia can remind you to take your birth control pill on time every day. It also provides detailed information that will help you understand and embrace your hormonal powers to take control of your life.

    Instead of allowing fear of pregnancy to wreak havoc on your mental health, choose Aavia. With the app, you can track your skin, mood and other bodily symptoms to better understand what’s going on inside your body. Whether you use the app alongside your choice of birth control or without it, Aavia gives you the tools to manage your cycle, fertility and family planning (when and if you’re ready).