This woman's question is clear and succinct — with a headline of "can I get pregnant if I had unprotected sex two days before my period comes?" and a simple comment of "please let me know what you think", we know exactly what kind of information she's after. The general consensus among participating SteadyHealth posters seems to be that this is possible, but extremely unlikely. Let's examine that in more detail.
What do the experts say?
Can you get pregnant if you have unprotected sex a few days before your period, during your period, or in the days immediately after your period ended? These questions are of interest to nearly every woman who had or is planning to have sexual intercourse without protection and who doesn't want to get pregnant.
The answer is surprisingly different than what you may have learned in high school sex ed, and goes contrary to popular wisdom as well. Wait, what? Doesn't a sperm cell have to fertilize an egg cell for a woman to get pregnant? And doesn't ovulation, the process during which eggs are released, take place neatly in the middle of the menstrual cycle, between two periods? While the answer to the first question is still "yes", answering the second question is more complex. Our bodies, it turns out, don't always follow the tidy scientific models we come up with.
The fertile window
All the way back during the first world war, a doctor who was — for some reason — looking into pregnancies that occurred after women had one-night stands with soldiers on leave, found that women got pregnant after having sex during wildly varying times in their menstrual cycles. That is, the earliest known cycle day on which a woman in this study conceived was day two, while day 30 was the latest time during which a woman got pregnant. Much more recent research noted that there are no more recent studies detailing such a wide range.
More research has indeed been conducted since then, however, and the findings may surprise you:
- Women have a 10 percent chance of being within their "fertile windows" (meaning they can get pregnant) every single day between cycle days six and 21.
- Up to five percent of women occasionally ovulate in the fifth week of their menstrual cycles.
- Only a third of woman have ovulations that neatly fall into established clinical guidelines, meaning they ovulate between days 10 and 17.
It is true that you're highly unlikely to conceive on certain cycle days — research found that any given woman of reproductive age has less than a one percent chance of getting pregnant two days after menstruation started, while half of all woman will be fertile on cycle days 12 and 13. Highly unlikely isn't the same as "not possible" though. Contrary to popular belief, some women do indeed get pregnant during this time.
Even women who reported that their menstrual cycles were very regular had, a study indicated, a possibility of being fertile within the fifth week of their cycles, even in the days before their next menstruation was expected or on the day itself. Statistically, the chance of this happening to you is somewhere in the range of one to five percent. This is probably a lot higher than most women think.
The "rules" about fertile windows that you've come to know are not incorrect, as such, as they broadly correspond to your statistical likelihood of ovulation. It's just that woman can and do fall outside of these guidelines, and if you don't want to get pregnant, you can't count on not being one of them.
The scientific method has brought us the probably unwelcome realization that you can, indeed, get pregnant at basically any time at all. What does this mean? It sends the message that any woman who is very sure that she wants to avoid pregnancy should turn to reliable birth control methods such as condoms, the contraceptive pill, intrauterine devices, or any of the other methods now available. Most medical birth control methods are around 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly.
Research has also shown that looking at your cervical mucus — you're looking for a "stretchy", transparent texture that looks an awful lot like raw egg whites — is quite reliable at telling you when you are close to ovulation. This method will help couples who are trying to conceive out, but it isn't something you should turn to if you are looking to prevent pregnancy. You can also use ovulation tests to figure out when you are definitely fertile, but because sperm cells can live inside the female reproductive tract for around five days, the days on which intercourse can lead to pregnancy are a bit broader than those tests would suggest.
Women who have just realized that it is theoretically possible to get pregnant during almost any time within their menstrual cycles and who recently had unprotected sex can consider the morning-after pill or ParaGard IUD as emergency contraception.
Anyone who thinks they may be pregnant can, meanwhile, take a pregnancy test — because it is hard to determine the right time to take it if you conceived during an unusual time, seeing a doctor is a wise step.
Women in the thread posed the following questions:
- How long has it been since you've had unprotected sex?
- Has it been at least eight days?
- What if you have like a normal period but had unprotected sex two days before your normal period started?
- ive just yhad sex wid my gf and she is due on in 2 days can she get pregant please help we are worrying about it nw :(
- Can I be preggers or have I lost it?
Women offered their views to others who thought they may be pregnant after having intercourse close to the day of their expected periods:
- You can become pregnant, but it is almost impossible.
- Not 100% impossible.
- The egg IS ALREADY dead by that time, but sperm can live inside of you and fertilize the egg for next time.
- i think you just tested too early.
- Normally women don't get pregnant right before a period.
What kind of symptoms were these women experiencing? Let's take a peek:
- This happened about a week and a half ago and i'm feeling stomach cramps now and I'm not sure of what is happening.
- i have been feeling weird period cramps.
- and umm i have been traing for the past mont in half,now b4 this period am already feeling symptoms of pregnancy (sore breast,morning sickness"sometimes"EXTRA tired,so i took 5 pregnancy test"first response" they were all negative.
- Referring that you had period-like symptoms.
- it took me about two weeks to realize that i was having period-likes symptoms with no period.
Those wondering if they could be pregnant after sex timed very soon before their expected periods got plenty of advice on what to do next, too:
- You can take a pregnancy test 2 weeks after sex, and you will get a pretty accurate result.
- If your next one is not normal, than I would go see your doctor.
- so if anything, take the preg test if anything for peace of mind.
- It's best to get a doctor to check because if your period is irregular and you and your husband have been trying and he is coming in you yes it's a possibility you are already pregnant but u also need to find out when you ovulate some people ovulate on their period yes I'm on of them it's crazy how your body can be just get good medical advice from an actual doctor would be best
- If you believe you are, or if you have a strange period (i.e., shorter and lighter than normal, with or without the normal symptoms of a regular period) then the only way to find out would be to take a test.