Can you get pregnant while on your period? Hmm! This is not just a regular polar question with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Today’s post examines situations where ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question might rub in.
In all the time I have dealt with people and patients alike, I have come across this seeming wonder of menstruating while pregnant, just a few times. One of those times, the woman concerned had refused to take a pregnancy test. “I just finished my period only yesterday.” She had declared. All other tests had come back negative and the only other explanation for her symptoms was pregnancy. She had gone back home to ‘take care of the situation herself’, or, so she put it.
After some days, she returned to the hospital to report that she was pregnant. She’d done a stick test when her symptoms persisted.
Series of disturbing thought kept streaming in her head “How’s this possible? I only just finished my period; can you get pregnant while on your period?”
It is possible; although the chances are slim.
Now this phenomenon might sound like an antithesis of medical science – pregnancy while menstruating. And this I have also encountered during years of practice. After being told their duration of pregnancy, some women make mental calculations which make them able to place an estimated date of conception; and the next words out of their mouths are, “but I was menstruating at the time, so can you get pregnant while on your period? .” It can very well occur. The probabilities might be low, but the possibilities are there.
Sperm has a life span of about three days and can live inside a woman for that long. It is possible to have sex towards the end of one’s period and actually conceive four or five days after, following an early ovulation.
For instance, in a cycle of twenty-eight (28) days, the menstrual period may last for the first seven (7) days, in which it is supposed that she can’t get pregnant (free period). The eighth to fourteenth days are ovulatory days, but it is assumed that with longer cycles it could extend to the nineteenth day.
This means that ovulation can occur from immediately after menstruation (day eight) to late after menstruation (day nineteen). Now let’s assume it occurs on day eight (in a short cycle), before which the woman had intercourse on the last day of her period; sperm still viable inside the woman can fertilize the newly released ovum. A woman is most fertile at ovulation.
This is just one instance out of many that could happen. There are also variations following the number of days some women menstruate; the shorter the cycle, the higher the probabilities. According to Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA, the chances of getting pregnant one to two days into one’s period are nearly zero so the question ‘can you get pregnant on your period?’ might not really apply here.
But the likelihood increases with each passing day; each day nearing ovulation. At about thirteen (13) days after period commences, the chances of the occurrence of pregnancy is estimated to about 9%.
CAN SPERM SURVIVE IN MENSTRUAL BLOOD?
Again, this might be another way of rephrasing the question ‘can you get pregnant on your period?’ the answer is ‘yes’ sperm can survive in menstrual blood. Medically, the biggest danger posed to the sperm going through the female reproductive tract, is the acidity of the vagina. During menstruation, this acidity is greatly reduced as the pH of the blood passing through, balances it out.
So in actuality, instead of the alkaline sperm getting destroyed en route to fertilization, it gets facilitation. There’s technically no hindrance in the form of acidity in menstrual blood to sperm motility. So yes again, sperm can survive in menstrual blood.
CAN YOU GET PREGNANT ON THE FIRST DAY OF YOUR PERIOD?
Can you get pregnant while on your period if it’s the first day of menstruation? No! The first day of a period is counted as the first day of the menstrual cycle.
Menstrual blood comprises not only unfertilized ovum, but also unused uterine endometrial cells prepared for implantation (deciduas). Usually on the first day of menstruation where bleeding is light, the ovum begins to disintegrate and is first shed. In some cases, deciduas are shed first where bleeding is just a brown mucus-like excretion. This however has some bearing with conception on the first day of one’s period, as oval disintegration may not allow for proper fertilization.
For fertilization to take place, the sperm has to meet the ovum at the fallopian tubes. The sperm may have been waiting for ovulation to take place or may have met an already released ovum, but either way normal fertilization has to take place at the fallopian tubes. For menstruation to occur, the unfertilized ovum leaves the fallopian tubes for the uterus, where it is shed with the deciduas as menstrual blood. Hence, it is highly unlikely that conception can occur on the first day, so can you get pregnant on your period type of self-appraisal cannot apply here too. It would either occur before or after.
CAN YOU GET PREGNANT WHILE ON YOUR PERIOD IF HE PULLS OUT?
Can you get pregnant while on your period if he pulled out? No! Well, on its own, there is no chance that pre-cum can cause pregnancy. Pre-cum does not contain sperm, only seminal fluid and prostatic fluid. So, no; pre-cum cannot cause pregnancy. But then again, some couples who practice coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), have confessed to the occurrence of pregnancy even when they pulled out very quickly. What could be the cause?
For every 100 people who use the withdrawal method very well, 4 will get pregnant. This may not only be due to an imperfect withdrawal, but also to the presence of sperm in the pre-cum. During pre-ejaculation, pre-ejaculatory juice (pre-cum) is released. This is usually a sign that ejaculation is imminent.
But sometimes, this juice comes, washed out by sperm in some cases; rendering a perfect withdrawal useless. So, it is possible to get pregnant with sperm-laced pre-cum and even after withdrawal. ‘Hence, in real life’, about 22 in a 100 people who use withdrawal get pregnant every year. That is about 1 in 5 persons.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN I WILL OVULATE? CAN I OVULATE DURING PERIOD?
If you have a regular cycle, you may be able to predict your ovulation date. Ovulation usually takes place around the tenth to fourteenth day after your period. In shorter cycles, it could take place on the eighth day and in longer cycles, from the fourteenth to the nineteenth day. But noticeable symptoms of ovulation may also help and include, but not restricted to;
- Mittelschmerz; also ovulation pain. This is a dull cramping pain felt on one side of the lower abdomen. It could be severe in rare cases and may last from a few seconds to about two minutes; and not everyone has it, just like not everyone gets menstrual pains (dysmenorrhea).
- Cervical mucus thins; cervical mucus becomes wetter and more slippery through the activation of mucin, a glycosylated protein secreted to gelatinize cervical mucus.
- Increased libido; sexual urge increases as the body senses the need for fertilization.
Ovulation during menstruation is physiologically impossible. Due to hormonal inactivity, that is withdrawal of estrogen and progesterone, menstruation occurs. These hormones are released when follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are released from the anterior part of the pituitary gland; and are necessary for ova formation, release and sustenance.
When they are withdrawn, it simply signifies that it is time to shed sustained but unfertilized ovum. This is when menstruation takes place, leaving no hormones to facilitate ovulation.
CAN I GET PREGNANT IF HE DIDN’T CUM INSIDE ME?
While growing up we often heard that if a boy touched a girl, she could get pregnant. And now? We know that she could even actually have sex and not get pregnant. That used to be a bad example of sex education in those days. There could be foreplay, penetration, the whole shebang; but if no ejaculation takes place inside the woman, then there’s no chance of pregnancy occurring.
The physiological rules of engagement remain that, a motile sperm has to fertilize an egg (ovum) for conception to occur so the question can you get pregnant while on your period does not apply even if the sex was during your menstruation.
For some who practice the barrier method of pregnancy prevention, it has been recorded that pregnancy has occurred in cases of leaky condoms, without the knowledge of either partners. For such partners it is possible for the occurrence to be misconstrued as ‘pregnancy due to penetration’; and not ejaculation.
Having intercourse with your spouse should be an awesome experience. However, uncertainties of the outcome of sexual activities during an unsure period can usher a contemporaneous heart throb. As a medical practitioner, working with teenagers and adult alike can present mysterious story lines for a movie. Intercourse during a period is something most men and women frown at, but which some practice; because some women are of the opinion that intercourse during menstruation guarantees contraception.
This is supposed to be true as the menstrual period is also considered a free period, but as with every physiological rule, there are aberrations. Now and then this method fails and perplexing questions like can you get pregnant while on your period crop up. So it is advisable to take necessary precautions and not rely wholly on periods providing contraceptive cover.
However, if you’re trying to get pregnant your best bet is in understanding your cycles. This knowledge would help you in timing your pregnancies and possibly determining the sexes of your babies.
The efficiency of the withdrawal method as a contraceptive practice is low, therefore should be used in combination with a more dependable method like proper use of condom or the use of spermicides. However, if you’re suspecting you might be pregnancy, it is pastime to see your midwife or gynecologist.
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