Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?

Sperm approaching an egg during ovulation

"Can you get pregnant on your period?" is a common question for women. While conception is more likely to occur mid-cycle when ovulation takes place, women can become pregnant during menstruation.

Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?

Research conducted by the National Institutes of Health shows that women who engage in unprotected sexual intercourse may become pregnant at any time during their cycle. However, the chance of pregnancy is highest when intercourse takes place during ovulation and the days preceding ovulation.

Understanding Ovulation

Each month, a woman's ovaries release an ovum, or egg. This process is known as ovulation. If this egg remains unfertilized, the uterine lining built up by the body in preparation for pregnancy is shed. This shedding of tissue and blood is a menstrual period. A woman's menstrual cycle begins on the first day of menstruation. Ovulation typically takes place 14 days before menstruation. For a 28-day cycle, this also means 14 days after the first day of a woman's period. However, less than one-third of all women experience regular, 28-day cycles. Even in women with regular cycles, there is some variation as to when ovulation occurs. Following ovulation, the egg travels through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. An unfertilized egg may survive for 24 to 48 hours following ovulation. Moreover, sperm may live several days inside the cervix. This makes it possible for pregnancy to result from intercourse that occurs anywhere from one week before to two days after ovulation.

Calculating Your Cycle

There are two primary ways to predict when you will ovulate. You can calculate your expected date of ovulation based on your menstrual cycle, but this requires keeping track of your menstrual periods for at least six months. If your periods are regular, you can estimate when you will ovulate based on the length of your cycle. By charting and observing the signs of ovulation in your body, you can encourage or avoid pregnancy. You can also purchase an over-the-counter ovulation predictor kit. These tests measure the levels of certain hormones in your urine to determine when ovulation is about to occur. Ovulation predictor kits are much more effective at improving the chance of conception than preventing it. This is because they are unable to predict ovulation accurately more than three days in advance, which means viable sperm may still be present in your vaginal tract during ovulation.

Bleeding Between Periods

Sometimes, other causes of bleeding may lead a woman to believe she is having her period when she is not. Bleeding between periods may result from hormonal fluctuations, thyroid disorders, vaginal infections, missing birth control pills, certain medications, stress, or cancer. This bleeding may occur at any time during the menstrual cycle, including around the time of ovulation. Women who engage in unprotected sex during this time may erroneously believe they are safe from pregnancy. When bleeding between periods happens frequently, it requires evaluation and diagnosis by a gynecologist to rule out potentially serious causes.

Preventing Pregnancy During Your Period

While most forms of contraception are equally effective during menstruation, the flow of blood through the vagina may reduce the effectiveness of some spermicides and contraceptive gels. Other forms of contraception, such as the cervical cap, are not safe for use during menstruation, which makes an alternative type of birth control necessary. Can you get pregnant on your period? The answer is "possibly", especially if you have an irregular cycle. Conception may potentially take place on any day. Therefore, it is not wise to have unprotected sex during your period unless you are trying to become pregnant.

Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period?