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Can you get pregnant if you're on the pill, during your period, while breastfeeding, if you use the withdrawal method, or if you stopped getting Depo Provera shots? These questions are really common.

If you are curious too, we've got the answers for you. Can you get pregnant... 

...if you are on the pill?

The birth control pill has given millions of women the control over their reproductive life that they need, ever since it first came out. It revolutionized contraception, and still continues to be the trusted "friend" many women rely on. The pill is still one of the most reliable contraceptive methods around. If used correctly, the pill is more than 99 percent reliable. That's where the catch lies, as well. With "typical use", the pill becomes more likely to "fail". Do you want to prevent pregnancy? Make sure you take your pills exactly as directed by the manufacturer, and take them at the same time each day. If you do, you are very, very unlikely to get pregnant anyway.

...shortly before, or during your period?

Can you get pregnant a week before your period? How about during menstruation? Quite a few readers have asked us these two questions. To get the answer, you have to understand how ovulation works. Typically, a woman's egg is released around 14 days before her period is due. She can be considered to be fertile (able to get pregnant) five days before ovulation, and on the day itself. Women with typical ovulation patterns cannot get pregnant a week before their period.

Some women do ovulate a week before their period. In that case, the time between their ovulation and menstruation is so short that they are considered to have a luteal phase defect. This means any fertilized egg will struggle to find time to implant in the uterus. Any fertilized egg that didn't securely implant by the time menstruation would come along will be washed out, with the menstrual flow. Some women with a very short luteal phase do manage to conceive naturally, but this is rare. No woman can get pregnant during her period. Those who experience unexplained mid-cycle vaginal bleeding (that isn't a period) should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

...while breastfeeding?

After a women has given birth, she'll experience a month-long (approximately) bleeding called lochia. Lochia cleans the uterus of all the remaining pregnancy by-products. Women who do not breastfeed their babies may start regular menstruation again soon after lochia has stopped. Most women who breastfeed exclusively get a much longer break. With extended nursing, I personally experienced lactational amenhorrea (no periods because of breastfeeding) for longer than two years. It is relatively safe to assume that you do not ovulate when you don't menstruate, though some women ovulate before their first postpartum period. See more in:

Trying to conceive while breastfeeding. If you are trying to conceive while breastfeeding, it is crucial for your cycles to start up again. We can't advise anyone to stop nursing in order to get pregnant again, of course. What I will say is that you are more likely to get your period back when your baby starts with solid foods, and also after the frequency of nursing declines. Longer amounts of time between breastfeeding sessions may give your body the message that menstruation should return. Or it may not. Having unprotected sex may get your pregnant :), or it may not.

...with the pull-out method?

Remember how your high school sex ed teacher taught you that having sex can get you pregnant at any time? Of course, that's sheer nonsense. The pull-out or withdrawal method is a tricky thing. There are lots of couples who have used it successfully for a long time, and who say it works like a charm. Then there are those who end up with an unwanted pregnancy. You can, theoretically, get pregnant using the pull-out method, because some men have small amounts of sperm in their pre-ejaculation seminal fluid. Don't use the pull-out method if you are definitely sure pregnancy would be a disaster. The withdrawal method may still be an acceptable family planning technique for couples who would rather not get pregnant, but would see a pregnancy that happened despite using it as a gift.

...after Depo Provera?

Depo Provera is an injectable form of hormonal birth control. According to the manufacturer, it is effective for at least three months. That's great if you are prone to forgetting the pill, and do not want to have a baby. If you are planning on trying to conceive in the near future, taking note of the "at least" part is handy. Some women remain non-ovulatory for ages after stopping Depo injections. Others get pregnant very quickly, we should add.

Got your own question about getting pregnant? Why not join us on the Trying To Conceive forums? An administrator and other members will answer your questions as soon as possible!

  • Photo courtesy of 123rf (stock photos)
  • Photo courtesy of 123rf (stock photos)