The Safe Days To Have Sex To Avoid Pregnancy, According To Science

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My only married-with-a-baby friends are so cool that they make me want to have a baby next week. They have an adorable 1-year-old who is even chill at Brooklyn bars (before bedtime). But when it's time for a diaper change, I remember precisely why I'm not ready. Shout-out to my IUD. Seriously, what would I do without it? Well, maybe just have sex on particular days to avoid pregnancy, which I just learned any woman can do.

So, what exactly is the calendar method? According to Planned Parenthood, the calendar method, also referred to as the "rhythm method," is a fertility awareness method that tracks your ovulation, so you can prevent pregnancy. In other words, you can opt to have sex on the days that you’re least likely to get pregnant, based on your ovulation cycle.

However, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the fertility awareness method isn't entirely effective. "Fertility awareness alone has a one in four chance of leading to an unintended pregnancy," the reports reads. "Of 100 couples that use natural family planning methods, up to 25 women may become pregnant." While the calendar method does have the potential to counteract unplanned pregnancy, you might opt for a more efficient preventative method, such as the birth control pill, which Planned Parenthood reports is “99.9% effective when used perfectly.” In order to decide which method is best for you and your body, consider consulting an OB/GYN or medical health professional.

Still curious about the fertility awareness method? Read on for everything you need to know about the safest days in your ovulation cycle to have sex, according to three experts.

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1. The Days You Are Not Fertile

According to Planned Parenthood, you are at your most fertile during the days closest to ovulation, and most likely to get pregnant. An egg lives about a day after ovulation and sperm live about five days after sex. So, your body is essentially fertile for around six days of every menstrual cycle, aka the five days before you ovulate and the day you ovulate. Additionally, you can get pregnant a day or two after ovulation, but it's less likely.

“Your menstrual cycle begins each month on the first day of your period,” pharmacist and wellness expert Dr. Lindsey Elmore previously told Elite Daily. “Approximately 14 days later, ovulation begins. Ovulation is the time of the month when your body is most fertile, and best equipped to sustain a pregnancy. Look at these days in your cycle as an opportunity to experiment in the bedroom with your partner with things like oral sex, anal sex, or masturbation. That way, you're still free to explore your sexuality without such a high risk of pregnancy.”

2. How To Track Your Fertility

Planned Parenthood recommends using one or more of the following methods in order to figure out when you are ovulating: the Temperature Method, which monitors your temperature daily, the Cervical Mucus Method, which keeps track of your discharge, and the Calendar Method, which counts your periods on a calendar. Additionally, the Standard Days Method “tracks your menstrual cycle for several months, in order to figure out if your cycle is always between 26 and 32 days long," but if your cycle is longer or shorter, the method is rendered ineffective.

Moreover, if you’re planning on monitoring your cycle to discover the safest days to have sex in order to avoid pregnancy, consider using an app, such as Natural Cycles, which tracks your ovulation and fertility. According to Elina Berglund, the app’s chief technology officer and co-founder, roughly 85% of sexually active women who choose not to use any form of birth control will become pregnant within the year. “This is why it is so important to, when it comes to birth control, increase choice, such that each woman finds something that suits her,” Berglund previously told Elite Daily. “The risk is otherwise that she will not keep using it and then there is a high pregnancy risk.”

Ann Mullen, director of health education at Cycle Technologies and the creator of the Dot App, also suggested talking to your partner before having sex and coming up with a game plan together. "It may sound unromantic, but planning ahead is a good idea," Mullen previously told Elite Daily. "If you both know what the method is going to be, then your expectations are in line with each other, which contributes to lowering the risk of an unplanned pregnancy."

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Because monitoring your cycle has a lower efficiency rate and in no way prevents against STIs, consider using this method in tandem with condoms or another form of birth control. Additionally, when choosing your preferred form of contraceptive, make sure to consult your doctor, who can also better help you to understand how to track your cycle. Remember: Everybody — and every body — is different. Use the method that works best for you and yours.

Additional reporting by Iman Hariri-Kia.

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