Ask Mia: Can I Get Pregnant On My Period?

Q. I hate condoms, and I would love it if there was just one week a month that I could skip them (unfortunately I can't be on the pill for health reasons). So, is it safe to have sex on my period without a condom, or can I still get pregnant?

A. This question is asked again and again, probably because the answer isn't a simple yes or no. The shortest possible answer is that it's unlikely, but possible.

The longer answer involves some understanding of your cycle. Women can only become pregnant for approximately 5 days out of their one-month cycle. These are the days around the time of ovulation, when there is an egg present. If there is no egg around, it is impossible to get pregnant. Sounds simple, right? The hard part is figuring out when this fertile period is—it can vary from woman to woman, and from month to month, and the signs are subtle.

Most of the time, your fertile time of the month does not coincide with your period. However, ovulation can occur right after your period, and in rare cases the tail end of your period can overlap with ovulation. It is important to remember that sperm can live up to 5 days in the body. So if you have sex during your period and those sperm hold out for a few days until you become fertile—voila! You're knocked up.

Another thing that throws some people off is the fact that bleeding is not always limited to the time of menstruation. Bleeding can occur during other times in your cycle, namely, when you're ovulating. Because ovulation actually involves the rupture of an egg sac, it can cause cramping, pain, and bleeding. If you mistake this for your period and throw caution to the wind, you've just had unprotected sex at your most fertile possible time.

You might consider talking to your health care provider about your birth control options. There are several possibilities other than condoms or the pill, and some of them are relatively new on the market. If you want to learn how to be aware of the fertile times in your cycle, you might try looking into a birth control method called Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness. This is a practice often associated with the Catholic Church because it is the only method of birth control officially approved by the Pope. Learning to do NFP effectively takes several months, during which you chart your cycle carefully and learn to recognize the signs of ovulation. NFP is best practiced in a steady, monogamous relationship since it provides no protection against STDs and requires awareness from both partners. The best way to learn about it is to take a class, often offered by a local church. For more information visit http://www.ccli.org.

Got a question? Write to mia@sexpertise.com.

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