Pregnancy can only occur in the few days following
ovulation (the release of an egg). This usually takes place at some
point in the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle, between her periods.
Unfortunately, women have no definite way of knowing exactly when they
are ovulating, so there is no guaranteed "safe" time to have unprotected
Sperm can survive inside the body for several days
while they wait for an egg to be released, and the egg takes several
days to travel to the uterus, meaning a woman can potentially become
pregnant over quite a long period of time. This is why even unprotected
sex during a woman's period can sometimes result in pregnancy. If she
has irregular periods (as many girls do in the first few years of
menstruation), "safe" days can be particularly difficult to predict.
Some couples do use the so-called 'rhythm' method as a form of
contraception (i.e. only having sex on certain days), but the success
rate is not high, and it also offers no protection from STDs such as
The likelihood of becoming pregnant from a single act
of unprotected sex (for example, from a one night stand) varies from
person to person, and also depends on the stage of a woman's menstrual
cycle. The probability is highest around the time of ovulation (when the
egg is released), when, on average, up to one third of women will become
pregnant from having sex once.
Many women spend much of their life trying not to get
pregnant, and then find that when they actually try to have a baby, it
takes longer than they had hoped. If you are trying for a baby and don't
get pregnant the first time you try, it is important not to panic. Many
perfectly healthy women can take up to a year or more to become
Although there is a possibility a woman will become
pregnant any time they have unprotected sex, the best chance of getting
pregnant will be by having frequent sex around the time of ovulation.
For women with a regular 28-day menstrual cycle, this will be
approximately 14 days after the start of their last period, although it
can vary from woman to woman. In some countries it may be possible to
buy an ovulation testing kit from a chemist to help you work out when
you're most fertile.
If you continue to have problems, you should contact
your doctor for advice. They will be able to refer you for tests to
ensure that there are no physical problems that are preventing you from
Even if a man doesn't insert his penis all the way,
or withdraws his penis before ejaculation, a woman can still become
pregnant. This is because 'pre-come' (the lubricating fluid that leaks
out of a man's penis before and during sex) can contain sperm. If this
fluid gets in or around a woman's vagina, it can find its way inside,
and she can become pregnant.
The first sign of pregnancy is usually the absence of
a period. Other symptoms of pregnancy can include tender breasts, nausea
and tiredness but not everybody experiences these. If you suspect you
are pregnant you should take a pregnancy test. This can be done at a
clinic, or you can buy a home testing kit from most major supermarkets
and pharmacies. If you use a home test kit it is important to get the
result confirmed by your doctor or healthcare professional at a local
It depends on the type of test you buy. Most tests
recommend testing on the day your period is due, although you can buy
some that can detect the pregnancy hormone in your urine up to four or
five days before this. Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly to
find out how long you should wait. If you are not sure when your period
is due, the best idea is to wait for at least 10 days after having had
unprotected sex before testing (although it is worth remembering that it
can take up to nineteen days or more to show a positive result). If you
get a negative result but your period still doesn't arrive, you should
test again at three-day intervals, until your period starts or you get a
positive result. The sooner you find out you are pregnant, the sooner
you can start thinking about what to do next.
If you have tested too soon (see above), then yes,
you might still be pregnant. However if you are sure you haven't tested
too soon, then it may well be stress that has delayed your period.
Worrying about pregnancy (or anything else) can drive your stress
hormones up, and this can in turn interfere with your menstrual cycle.
If you have lost or gained a lot of weight recently, have undertaken
lots of vigorous exercise or you have irregular periods generally, these
could also be to blame. Girls who have only recently started their
periods often experience very irregular cycles too, so if you've only
been menstruating for a couple of years or less, try not to panic! If
your period is more than a week or two late when you're normally regular
however, you should probably think about seeing your doctor.
If you were planning to get pregnant, then finding
out you're expecting a baby can be a wonderful surprise. However, if you
weren't, it is more likely to be a big shock. The most important thing
to remember is that you are not alone, and you do have more than one
option. The first thing you should do is go to your doctor or your local
sexual health or family planning clinic. They will be able to discuss
your options with you and help you to decide what to do next. Whether
you decide to keep the baby, have an abortion (in places where it's
legal), or proceed down the adoption route, it's essential that you do
what's right for you and don't feel pressurised into making a decision.
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