The chances of getting pregnant on your period are quite slim. However, you can still get pregnant from having sex during your period. Early ovulation, irregular menstrual cycle, or long sperm lifespan can increase your chances of pregnancy around your period. There is also a very small chance of getting pregnant right after your period if ovulation occurs much earlier than usual. But in most cases, there is a little chance of becoming pregnant right before your period.
In this article, you will find out how it is possible to get pregnant on your period. I am also going to answer the question if you can get pregnant right before your period or right after your period.
This can help avoid unwanted pregnancies or if you want to conceive, increase your chances of becoming pregnant. At the end of the article, you will learn what you can do to increase your chances of conceiving after intercourse and what the early signs of pregnancy are.
Conception and Your Menstrual Cycle
In order to conceive, a male’s sperm needs to fertilize a woman’s mature egg. Ovulation happens when the woman’s ovary releases a mature egg and it usually occurs around day 14 of your menstrual cycle but it can change. Day 1 is defined as the first day of your period.
However, doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that ovulation can occur as early as day 10 of your menstrual cycle. This means that, in some cases, ovulation happens shortly after the end of your period. If you have a long period and early ovulation, you are much more likely to get pregnant right after your period.1
You also need to take into consideration that according to the Journal of the Royal Society of Health sperm can live for up to 5 days in the body after ejaculation. This means that you can get pregnant on your period if the sperm live long enough and you ovulate shortly after the end of your period.2
Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period? 5 Things That Increase Your Chances of Conception
It is possible that having unprotected sex during your period can result in becoming pregnant. Of course, the chances of conceiving while menstruating are quite low. However, it is not impossible.
Let’s look at the 5 main factors that can increase your chances of getting pregnant during your menstrual period.
If you have irregular or unpredictable periods, it can be difficult to predict when exactly ovulation happens, and this increases your chances of getting pregnant from having sex on your period.
OB/GYN Dr. Traci C. Johnson says that an irregular period is when the length of the menstrual cycles varies from month to month. In some months you may have a short menstrual cycle while in other months you may have a longer one.3
The common length of the menstrual cycle is 28 to 30 days. But if you have an irregular period, you may suddenly have a short menstrual cycle which could be as short as 21 or 22 days.
Ovulation occurs around 14 days before your next period. This means that if your cycle is as short as 21 days, ovulation will occur around day 7 which is just after your period has ended.
Obviously, if you have an irregular period, you may ovulate much earlier than what you expect. In these circumstances, there is a chance that live sperm can still be around when you ovulate, and you may get pregnant right after your period.
Early ovulation in the menstrual cycle greatly increases your odds of getting pregnant on your period.
Even if you have a regular menstrual cycle, you can get pregnant before the end of your period because of early ovulation.
The journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology report that acute emotional stress can induce early ovulation. Your ovulation is triggered by the luteinizing hormone. Stress can cause luteinizing hormone levels to rise, and that can result in ovulation at any point in the menstrual cycle.5
The American Pregnancy Association reports that illness or changes to your daily routine can also affect the timing of ovulation.6
Short menstrual cycle
A short menstrual cycle can mean that unprotected sex during your period can cause pregnancy, especially if it takes place near the end of the period.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic report that many women have short menstrual cycles as part of their “normal” cycle. Stress, fibroids, or eating disorders can also disrupt the length of a menstrual cycle in other women. Shorter menstrual cycles can mean that ovulation occurs earlier than expected.7
Therefore, there is a very small chance of pregnancy if you have sex during your period or just after your period.
Long sperm lifespan
Under optimal conditions, sperm can live for a week or longer after ejaculation and could fertilize an egg after having sex during your period.
In most cases, sperm lives an average of 3 days after intercourse and if this happens, your chances of getting pregnant are very slim indeed. However, the journal Advances in Contraception reports that some sperm can still be ‘alive’ in the cervix for up to 7 days after sexual intercourse.8
This means that if you have sex on the last day of your period, there is still a slight chance of becoming pregnant if you ovulate mid-cycle.
Some studies even suggest that sperm can be found in the cervix 9 to 12 days after coitus. Also, research suggests that sperm can be found in the cervix after the menstrual period following coitus before or during the period.9
Confusion between ovulation bleeding and a period
It is not uncommon for women to experience light mid-cycle spotting around the time of ovulation.
Ovulation spotting happens because of fluctuations in your hormones, and the egg being released causes uterine contractions and some light bleeding.
Doctors from Medscape say that ovulation is the most common reason for mid-cycle vaginal bleeding. When estrogen levels dip during ovulation, this can be enough to cause some spotting.17
For women who have irregular periods, it’s easy to mistake ovulation bleeding for the beginning of a period. If you have unprotected sex at this time when you are most fertile, your chances of becoming pregnant increase dramatically.
The Chances of Getting Pregnant on Your Period
The chances of getting pregnant are all down to your fertility window and when you ovulate. Although the odds of getting pregnant are at their highest in mid-cycle for most women, the fertility window can start much earlier.
According to research published in the journal BMJ, only about 30% of all women are at their most fertile at the menstrual mid-cycle point. However, most women reach their fertile window earlier and others much later. The study concluded that the timing of women’s fertile window can be highly unpredictable, even if their cycles are usually regular.10
The study showed that the earliest recorded day of ovulation was as early as day 8 in the menstrual cycle. This means that ovulation could occur between 1 and 3 days after menstrual bleeding stops. Taking into account the fact that sperm can live for up to 7 days in the cervix, you could become pregnant 4 or 5 days after bleeding has stopped.10
Although the chances of getting pregnant are better at other times of the month, having sex during your period could result in pregnancy.
Can You Get Pregnant Right After Your Period?
What about the possibility of conceiving if you have sex one or 2 days after your period has ended? At the end of menstruation, you start to get closer to your fertility window when conception becomes more likely.
In what circumstances could you get pregnant right after your period? For example, if the menstrual flow stops on day 6 of your cycle and you have sexual intercourse on day 7, there is a slim chance you can become pregnant. For this to happen, ovulation would need to occur around day 10 or 11 of your monthly cycle.
To increase the possibility of getting pregnant after your period, you should have sex every other day for the next 2 weeks. During this time, you should also look for signs of implantation that can occur as early as a few days after conception.
Can You Get Pregnant Right Before Your Period?
Having sex 3 or 4 days before your period rarely results in pregnancy. The publication Endotext says that most menstrual cycles last between 25 and 30 days. Ovulation (or, the follicular phase) can occur between 10 and 16 days after the first day of the menstrual cycle.11
When the egg is released at ovulation, there is a 12 to a 24-hour time period when the egg can be fertilized. This means that during a regular menstrual cycle there is little chance of becoming pregnant by having unprotected sex in the few days before menstruation.
When Does a Woman Have the Highest Chance of Getting Pregnant?
The greatest chance you have of getting pregnant is to have sex just before or on the day of ovulation. To increase your chances of pregnancy, it is important to know the days when your fertility window is open.
To predict when you are most fertile, you can purchase ovulation prediction tests to help pinpoint the days when fertility is at its highest.
Have sex just before ovulation
The best chance you have of becoming pregnant is to have sex 1 or 2 days before ovulation takes place.
According to studies published in the journal Human Reproduction, most women become pregnant in the 6 days before ovulation occurs. However, in many cases, your chances of conceiving significantly increase by having sex 1 to 2 days before ovulation.12
For example, doctors from the National Health Service report that if you have sex in the days before ovulation, sperm have the chance to reach the fallopian tube and wait for the egg.13
In order to help predict your most fertile time, it’s important to keep an accurate menstrual calendar to look for patterns. Your fertile window will be at its highest in the 3 days leading up to and including ovulation.
What are the Signs of Ovulation?
Changes in cervical mucus
One of the best ways to determine when your fertility period is at its greatest is to check the consistency of cervical mucus in your menstrual cycle.
Changes around the time of ovulation to cervical discharge will make mucus appear sticky and white. This is sometimes referred to as egg white cervical mucus. The journal Contraception reports a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH surge) that changes the consistency of vaginal secretions.14 Usually, ovulation takes place 24 hours after the LH surge.15
Having sexual intercourse in the day before ovulation greatly increases your chances of getting pregnant.
Change in basal body temperature
Monitoring changes in your basal body temperature can help to know when your most fertile days during your menstrual cycle are.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that if you want to get pregnant, you should monitor your basal body temperature. You should do this at exactly the same time every day before getting out of bed. When you notice a pattern of slight temperature increase near the mid-point of your cycle, this is a strong indicator of ovulation.16
Looking for signs of spotting after your period can also help determine a pattern when you usually ovulate.
As previously mentioned, light bleeding or spotting is common around the time of ovulation. This happens because a surge in hormones releasing the egg for fertilization. Although chances of getting pregnant are low if you have sex after ovulation, a pattern of mid-cycle spotting can help pinpoint or predict your most fertile days.17
Mid-cycle breast tenderness
Tender breasts after your last period could be a sign that you are about to ovulate.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins report that many women experience breast tenderness around the time of ovulation. This could even last until the onset of the next menstrual period. However, breast pain in itself isn’t always a sign of ovulation.18
What are the Early Signs of Conception?
The earliest signs of conception can be quite subtle and they include:
- Breast changes like soreness and tenderness
- Frequent urination
- Mood swings
For more information please read the article about the signs of early pregnancy before missed period.
When is the Best Time to Take a Pregnancy Test?
Knowing the right time to take a pregnancy test can help ensure that you get the most accurate results. Taking a home pregnancy test too early can result in a false negative result.
For the most accurate results, the best time to take a pregnancy test to avoid a false negative would be at least a day after your missed period.
However, some home pregnancy tests are not accurate enough and may show inaccurate results. For more information read the article: When to Take a Pregnancy Test to Avoid False Negative or Positive Results.
When to See a Doctor
Most doctors agree that you should try to get pregnant for at least a year by having frequent sex without birth control. Even having sex right after your period can help to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Of course, the best times of the month to get pregnant are having unprotected sex just before ovulation.
Doctors from MedicineNet say that you should speak to a doctor about fertility issues if you are younger than 35 and can’t conceive a child. Also, if you or your partner have problems with libido or sexual function, your doctor can advise on the best ways to increase the possibility of getting pregnant.19
- MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
- J R Soc Health.1986 Aug;106(4):121-6.
- WebMD. Why is my period so random?
- N Engl J Med. 1995; 333: 1517-1521.
- Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2010; 8: 53.
- AmericanPregnancy. Understanding ovulation.
- MayoClinic. Menstrual cycle: what’s normal, what’s not.
- Adv Contracept.1997 Jun-Sep;13(2-3):83-95.
- Br J Vener Dis.1972 Apr;48(2):141-3.
- BMJ. 2000 Nov 18; 321(7271): 1259–1262.
- NCBI. The normal menstrual cycle and the control of ovulation.
- Hum Reprod. 1999 July; 14(7): 1835-1839.
- NHS. Your pregnancy and baby guide.
- Contraception. 2002 Oct;66(4):231-5.
- Hum Reprod. 2000 Dec; 15(12): 2478-2482.
- MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
- Medscape. Abnormal uterine bleeding.
- HopkinsMedicine. Breast pain (mastalgia).
- MedicineNet. Pregnancy.