A common myth is that a woman can’t get pregnant while on her period. This is mostly true, but there is a catch here! Very rarely, a woman can get pregnant if she has unprotected sex on the first day of the period. This may happen if she has a 20-day period cycle.
In a woman with a 20-day cycle, the egg is released around the seventh day, and the most fertile days for this woman are Days 5, 6, and 7 of the period cycle. Now, sperms can live in the woman’s reproductive tract for about six days after the entry. Therefore, this means that pregnancy is possible in such cases.
Sometimes, women can bleed during ovulation (the most fertile period). This may often be mistaken as the first day of the period. Having unprotected sex during this time significantly increases the chances of becoming pregnant. The average menstrual cycle in most women is between 28 and 30 days. Young women often tend to have irregular periods; hence, it may not always be possible to predict the length of the menstrual cycle or ovulation period accurately.
If a woman is trying to get pregnant, tracking the menstrual cycle can play an important role. The woman can track her most fertile days, helping her conceive more easily. If a woman is not planning to get pregnant, it’s always advised to use protection or the morning-after pill (emergency contraception) to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. The morning-after pill is effective up to five days after unprotected intercourse, but the sooner it’s taken, the better. Repeated consumption of the morning-after pill is not advised because it may cause hormonal imbalance in the body. These pills are available over the counter at pharmacies for those who are over 18 years. Those under 18 years need to get a prescription from a doctor. Women who aren’t planning to get pregnant may consider taking other contraceptive measures, such as oral contraceptive pills (birth control pills) or intrauterine devices (IUDs) if the couple decides not to use condoms. Oral contraceptive pills and IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes, syphilis, and gonorrhea. For protection against STDs, it is advised to use condoms. Consulting with a doctor regarding contraception can help choose an ideal method of contraception.
How does conception occur?
Conception occurs when a sperm from a man meets (fertilizes) the egg from the woman. Once the woman’s ovary releases an egg, the egg usually lives only for 12-24 hours. The male sperm can live for an average of 3 days and sometimes up to 6 days.
The typical female menstrual cycle is 28-30 days. Some may have a shorter cycle, around 20 days, or a longer cycle, around 35 days. The first day of the menstrual cycle is when she starts her period. The periods usually last 3 to 7 days in most women. Ovulation (release of the egg from the ovary) occurs between the 12th and 15th day of the menstrual cycle, most commonly on the 14th day. During ovulation, usually, only a single egg is released from the ovary and sometimes more, which increases the chances of twins, triplets, and more. If fertilization does not occur, the uterine lining sheds and presents with bleeding, marking the onset of the periods.
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2. Reed BG, Carr BR. The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., eds. Endotext [Internet]. MDText.com, Inc.; 2000. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279054/
3. Amy. Can You Get Pregnant If You Have Unprotected Sex on the First Day of Your Period?? Planned Parenthood. January 19, 2011. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/ask-experts/can-you-get-pregnant-if-you-have-unprotected-sex-on-the-first-day-of-your-period#:~:text=Yes%2C%20especially%20if%20she%20has,first%20day%20of%20her%20period