Can you get pregnant while you’re on your period? The short answer? YES. It’s not entirely impossible!
Your period is definitely a less fertile time of the month, but under the right conditions, conception and pregnancy could still potentially occur. Let’s take a look at the average menstrual cycle, beginning with the first day of menstruation.
During menstruation, an unfertilized egg and the endometrium, or inner lining of the uterus, are shed. This typically lasts three to seven days. By day three, progesterone and estrogen levels are on the rise. These hormones rebuild the endometrium. Around day four of the menstrual cycle, the ovaries begin preparing a new egg for release.
Ovulation usually occurs about 14 days before the next period. The chances of conceiving around this time are high, especially if you have unprotected sex within 36 hours of ovulation. Some clues that you’re ovulating? Changes in cervical discharge and a higher basal body temperature. You can also purchase ovulation predictor kits to help clue you in on whether or not ovulation is imminent.
The last part of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase, occurs after ovulation and usually lasts between 12 to 16 days. Progesterone levels start to rise again, letting the ovaries know not to release any more eggs. It takes about six days for any fertilized eggs to reach the uterus. If a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, you could see a positive pregnancy test in about a week. If an egg doesn’t get fertilized or doesn’t implant itself, the lining of the uterus is shed during your period.
So how can you get pregnant during your period, if it’s a sign that your body is already not pregnant?!
After an egg is released into the fallopian tube, it can live for 24 hours while making its way to the uterus. Sperm can live inside of you for anywhere from two to five days. So if sperm are present in the fallopian tube at the time an egg is released, it could lead to fertilization.
Most menstrual cycles are around 28 days long, but some women have cycles that are as short as 22 days. If you have a shorter cycle, you could end up ovulating just days after your period ends. So if you have sex on your period, it’s possible that sperm could still be living in the reproductive system and fertilize an egg upon release.
Even if you have a regular 28-day menstrual cycle, the day ovulation starts varies from cycle to cycle. You could have sex on the very last day of your period, ovulate a few days earlier than usual, and if the sperm are still viable inside the uterus, you could get pregnant.
If you have an irregular period, it’s even harder to predict ovulation, which makes it really hard to tell when you are most fertile. This makes it difficult to know when you should be having sex if you’re trying to conceive – or when to avoid having unprotected sex if you’re looking to avoid pregnancy.
If you have a tendency to have periods that last a long time, it’s also possible to get pregnant. Your body is slowly shedding the uterine lining while it is also preparing for ovulation. You could possibly still be bleeding and then become fertile again, while you’re still on your period.
Some women have breakthrough bleeding, also called spotting, when they ovulate, so it’s also possible to mistake this bleeding for your period. Except it’s not really a period – ovulation is the most fertile time of the month!
The chances of getting pregnant while you’re on your period are low, but there’s still a possibility. Never say never! It’s important to familiarize yourself with the length of your cycle, the duration of your periods, and the probable timing of your ovulation. If you’re not trying to get pregnant, use a form of birth control, no matter what time of the month it is!