Sexual Health
doctors explain whether you can get pregnant if you have sex on your period

Here's The Truth About Whether You Can Get Pregnant From Period Sex

The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

Updated: 
Originally Published: 
Studio4/E+/Getty Images

Sex doesn’t have to be off-limits during your period. When you’re in the right mood (aka not curled up watching reruns of Schitt’s Creek while you deal with your cramps), sex on your period can be awesome. It's not that messy if you lay down a towel, it can relieve cramps, and it can reduce the risk of pregnancy — but not always. Can period sex still get you pregnant? It’s highly unlikely, but doctors say it could happen, so don’t ditch your contraception during that time of the month. Getting familiar with your body and its rhythms will give you valuable information about how your reproductive cycle works and whether having period sex with your partner really is completely free of pregnancy risk.

Can You Get Pregnant On Your Period?

“Getting pregnant on one's period is unlikely, but not impossible,” explains Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine. For context, let’s get into the nitty gritty of your monthly cycle. It begins with your period, which lasts between four to eight days for most people. Then, your body enters the follicular or proliferative phase, where it’s making estrogen and preparing for the release of the egg. Midway through the cycle (around day 14 in a 28-day cycle), ovulation occurs.

Ovulation is the time in your cycle when your ovary releases an egg and it moves down the fallopian tube, where it can be fertilized. It’s also when your likelihood of getting pregnant is highest. In a typical reproductive cycle, ovulation happens two weeks before you get your period, which means that by the time your moon comes around, you won't have an egg in your uterus that's ready for fertilization. That's why, if your ovulation cycle is a typical length or longer, your chances of getting pregnant while menstruating are pretty much zero. But — and this is a major but! — it’s not exactly that simple.

Potential Causes Of Pregnancy From Period Sex

Adene Sanchez/E+/Getty Images

Mid-Cycle Bleeding Or Spotting

“Most women, whenever they see blood, they call it their period,” Dr. Lauren Streicher, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Elite Daily. “There are a lot of different reasons people might bleed. Sometimes people bleed mid-cycle when they’re ovulating, which would be a terrible time to have [unprotected] sex if you’re trying not to get pregnant. Sometimes people will have prolonged bleeding that they assume is just a long period, but they might be bleeding for another reason — fibroids or a polyp or something like that.” Spotting between periods, especially if you have an irregular cycle, is fairly common, and it can indicate anything from a hormonal imbalance to stress to a bacterial infection.

Short Or Unpredictable Ovulation Cycle

The shorter your typical menstrual cycle, the more likely you are to get pregnant from period sex, explains Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology and She-ology, The She-quel. “If you have 21 days between day one of your last period to day one of your next period, you probably ovulate on day 10 of your cycle,” she tells Elite Daily. Thus, having sex on day seven of your cycle could still result in pregnancy. And if you have an unpredictable cycle, the risk goes up even more. Ross explains that using contraception is crucial to minimize the likelihood of unexpected pregnancy. “If your periods come monthly without 100% consistency, finding the safe window to avoid pregnancy can be too risky to take a chance,” she says.

If your period comes every 28 days like clockwork, and you’re 100% certain that bleeding indicates menstruation, you’re still not out of the woods when it comes to a possible pregnancy. “While it is extremely unlikely to get pregnant during a period, it’s possible, and the reason is that sperm can live for up to 72 hours,” Streicher explains. So, if your period is fairly long and you tend to ovulate early, the sperm could still be alive when the new egg is released.

How To Have Safe Sex On Your Period

That doesn't mean you should run out and buy Plan B every time you have period sex. What it does mean is that you should be familiar with your cycle so you don't have to worry about whether or not you could get pregnant. With a little bit of due diligence, you can calculate the exact dates in your cycle when you are ovulating.

For people with an average 28-day cycle, ovulation happens around the fourteenth day after the first day of your period. The five or six days leading up to ovulation are the days when you can get pregnant, with the three days right before ovulation being the most fertile window. Of course, most people don’t have bodies that work like clockwork, and nobody's menstrual cycle stays the same forever. Different times of your life cause the hormones that regulate your cycle to change. Sleep and stress can also cause those hormones to fluctuate. Even a change in your work schedule can be enough to throw your period off its normal rhythm, so it's definitely important to pay attention to how your lifestyle impacts your body's fluctuations.

Period sex isn’t an excuse to forgo your usual methods of contraception. “Essentially, what I tell people is, if getting pregnant would be catastrophic, then you need to use contraception even if you have your period,” Streicher suggests. “And particularly if you don’t have regular clockwork periods, just because there’s bleeding does not mean that you cannot conceive.”

Knowledge is power when it comes to your sexual health. If you’re looking to learn more about your menstrual cycle, Minkin recommends using an ovulation predictor kit (which you can usually pick up at the drugstore). “If you do those for a couple of months, you will know more about your particular cycle and when you ovulate in general,” she tells Elite Daily. But no matter what, you should use contraception every time you have sex to minimize the risk of pregnancy. Period sex can be safe and fun (and surprisingly mess-free!) as long as you’re responsible about it.

Experts:

Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Lauren Streicher, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and Author of She-ology and She-ology, The She-quel

This article was originally published on