“Period” is an ironic name for the biological function in question. After all, as a punctuation mark, it indicates an end. In a woman’s body, it’s just the beginning of a miserable monthly affliction.
You know the gauntlet of girlish suffering. Monthly menstruation comes complete with cramps, cravings, mood swings and stress. With that itinerary of irritation, you would at least think that maybe you could at least not worry about getting pregnant on your period, right?
Guess again, girls.
Even if you and your significant other are perfectly fine with grabbing that old towel and having period sex, it is not 100 percent risk-free. So can you really become pregnant during your period?
It’s definitely possible. Here’s why.
An assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, & reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, Amanda Kallen, MD, confirmed that while a menstrual flow “is a bleed,” not every single bleed is a menstrual flow. The doctor added that menstruation, also referred to as a “withdrawal bleed,” is actually the bleeding women have for roughly two days to a week at the end of their menstrual cycle. This indicates that the woman isn’t pregnant. It also means she is beginning her cycle anew and will be ovulating again in just a few weeks.
Kallen added that there are a number of reasons why women bleed from their vaginas. Polyps, irregular cycles, and even early pregnancy symptoms can all be the cause of bleeding that one could mistake for menstruation. Kallen added that the “risk . . . is that bleeding could be interpreted as [your menses].” You might mistakenly think you are “totally safe, but [you’re] not actually in that ‘safe’ part of [your] cycle.”
What about when you’re really menstruating?
The doctor noted that you can get pregnant on your menses if you have a long menstrual cycle that actually goes right up ‘til you start ovulating. Essentially, if you have sexual intercourse at the end of your menstrual cycle and you happen to ovulate early, a man’s sperm could still be floating around in your reproductive tract. Thus, Kallen notes, you “could conceive even though [you] had sex [while menstruating] because [sperm] can live for several days there.”
Kallen said it is important to remember that the sperm can survive for as long as five whole days in your reproductive tract. Remember too that many women are not on a perfect 28-day cycle either. If you tend to have shorter menses and longer ovulations a man’s sperm has a much better window of opportunity in which to fertilize your egg.
If you’re using a form of birth control that is effective, your chances of becoming pregnant on your period are even lower. As the doctor reminds us, the majority of birth control pills actually stop your body from dropping an egg. Nevertheless, no method of birth control is ever 100 percent effective. So even though your odds are low, you could still get pregnant while on your menses and on birth control.