Can I Get Pregnant If…? A Pregnancy Scare Companion

pregnancy scareDo you think you (or your partner) might be pregnant?

We get a lot of questions from readers wondering, “Can I get pregnant if…”. Bottom line: You can’t get pregnant from activities like petting or oral sex, only from activities in which semen comes in direct contact with the vagina. But what if there was pre-cum, or ejaculation near the genitals? What if you are late for your period even though you used a condom?

If you are not sure if you experienced real risks of pregnancy, this post is for you. Heather Corinna of Scarleteen provides information and resources based on your unique situation. Whether you are late for your period, or tested positive for a pregnancy test, or don’t know where to find emergency contraceptives, this article will help you figure out the next best steps.

Here’s a quickie on how pregnancy happens:

  • Pregnancy can happen when semen (ejaculation or cum) or precum gets inside the vagina.
  • Emergency contraceptives (the morning after pill) can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.
  • You can reduce the risk pregnancy by not having direct genital-to-genital contact, or using condoms and birth control every time you have sex.
  • Read the article below for more information about the type of sexual activities that increase  risk of pregnancy.

This post was originally published on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

In the thick of a pregnancy scare? Freaking out? Not sure what to do? We know how scary this can be, and we’re here to have your back in it.

Take a few deep breaths (really: do some good, slow breathing, you’ll feel better and be able to think more clearly once you do), and have a seat. Based on your unique situation, we’ll walk you through your next steps, give you some extra helps, fill you in on some common self-sabotagers, and do our best to help you chill out and pull it together so you can get through a scare without losing your mind and your well-being in the process.

Is your (or your partner’s) menstrual period not yet due?

In other words, a period isn’t late or missed, because it’s not even due for another few days or weeks. Click here for your next steps.

Are you (or your partner) due for a menstrual period around now, but it’s not late yet?  Click here for your next steps.

Are you (or your partner) currently experiencing a late or missed menstrual period?

In other words, a menstrual period has not yet arrived and was expected at least five or more days ago. Click here for your next steps.

Do you (or your partner) have irregular periods, so you can’t really answer the questions above?

If your (or your partner’s) menstrual periods are irregular, or you (or your partner) use a method of contraception that often causes skipped or missed periods, click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a menstrual period since the risk you are concerned about?

A menstrual period is happening now or has occurred since the risk you’re concerned about, but you’re still worried about pregnancy. Click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a pregnancy test with a positive (pregnant) result? Click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a pregnancy test with a negative (not pregnant) result? Click here for your next steps.

Has it been less than 120 hours since your risk?

If you would like to reduce your risk, you or your partner can use a method of emergency contraception (EC) to reduce the risk by as much as 95% with oral medications designed as EC, and as much as 98% using a copper IUD. EC is most effective when used within 24 hours, so you want to get a move on if you can and want to use it. For information on emergency contraception, click here. To find the kinds of EC available in your area, or which kinds of oral contraceptives you can use as emergency contraception, and how to use them that way, click here.

Not sure if you or a partner have had a real risk of pregnancy or not?

In order for pregnancy to be a possibility, the kind of contact that has to happen is:

  • Direct (with no clothing, at all, covering anyone’s genitals) genital-to-genital contact between someone with a penis and someone with a vulva, such as genital intercourse or otherwise rubbing genitals together OR
  • Direct contact with ejaculate (semen) and the vulva, vaginal opening or anus.

BUT (and it’s a really big one): If either of those kinds of contact did occur, but one or more reliable methods of contraception was used properly, that risk is radically reduced, by a minimum of 70%*, and as much as 99.9%. And even if you used two methods, any two reliable methods at all — like the pill plus withdrawal, or a condom plus a Depo shot — only typically, rather than perfectly, you still will only have had about a 10% risk of pregnancy at a maximum.

Scenarios like these are NOT how pregnancy happens:

  • Masturbation or mutual masturbation (masturbating in the same space with someone else)
  • Being in the same space as someone with a penis and doing things like using their towels, sharing a toilet, touching their clothing, or sharing a bed to sleep or rest in
  • Sitting somewhere where someone did or may have ejaculated
  • Taking a shower, bath or swim with someone with a penis
  • Thinking about sex or fantasizing
  • Kissing, making out or fondling
  • Dry humping (rubbing genitals together when one or more people involved have some kind of clothing on that covers the genitals)
  • Oral sex or manual sex (fingering or handjobs)
  • Contact with pre-ejaculate, but NOT during intercourse or direct genital-to-genital contact
  • Touching yourself after you touched someone whose hand has touched their penis
  • Having someone with a penis ejaculate on some part of the body other than your genitals, like your buttocks, back or breasts
  • Direct genital-to-genital contact or direct contact with ejaculate when you and a partner have the same kinds of genitals (like each of you having a vulva or each of you having a penis).

Situations like these are ways pregnancy can theoretically occur, but where it is not at all likely:

  • Rubbing the vulva with hands that have recently touched semen
  • Intercourse or other direct genital-to-genital or genital fluid contact where two (or more) reliable methods of contraception were used properly
  • Unprotected anal sex without ejaculation

Are pregnancy scares a constant for you, or occurring even when you’re not having the kinds of contact that can result in pregnancy in reality?

1) Do you know the facts about how pregnancy happens, and what can and cannot present real risks of pregnancy? If not, you can educate yourself here or here. If you already know the facts, or find that now that you have them, you still feel scared or can’t believe them, then this probably isn’t about a lack of education about reproduction.

2) Do yourself a solid and take any kind of contact that is freaking you out like this off the table ASAP for now (that you can: for instance, if living in a house with family members who have a penis is freaking you out, you can’t very well ask them to leave so you can deal). If you are not in a relationship where you feel you are allowed to have any limits you need with sex of any kind, that’s a cue you’re not in a healthy relationship or dynamic, or just not yet able to assert yourself enough to manage sexual activity, so may need to get yourself away from that relationship, period.

3) Take some real time — not hours or a few days, but a week or two or even a few months or more, whatever you need — to figure out what you need to have these kinds of contact comfortably and without panic. Only engage in that kind of contact again when you CAN have what you need to be comfortable, whether that’s two methods of contraception, a different partner or kind of relationship, or counseling or therapy to help you with assertiveness, sexual fear or shame or an anxiety disorder.

4) If none of the above has any big impact on your fears over the next few weeks or months, then it’s time to seek out some help from a qualified mental health professional, like a counselor or therapist.

Want more information about pregnancy scares, pregnancy, contraception and making sexual choices you feel comfortable with?

Pregnancy Scared?
Human Reproduction: A Seafarer’s Guide
On the Rag: A Guide to Menstruation
Let’s Dial Down Some (Maybe) Ovulation Freakouts
Chicken Soup for the Pregnancy Symptom Freakout’s Soul
You’re Not Pregnant. So, Why Do You Think You Are?
Peeing on a Stick: All About Pregnancy Tests
Birth Control Bingo!
The Buddy System: Effectiveness Rates for Backing Up Your Birth Control With a Second Method
Have a Little Faith in BC
Who’s Afraid of Sperm Cells?
Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist
Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices
Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You’re Moving Too Fast

Here’s some information from other credible sources:

Can I Get Pregnant If…? (Options for Sexual Health)
Could I be Pregnant? (Teen Health Source)
How Pregnancy Happens (Planned Parenthood)
Am I Pregnant? (Brook)

*Effectiveness rates for methods of contraception are figured for one full year of use. Figures presented here and elsewhere about effectiveness, with the exception of emergency contraception methods, present effectiveness rates over one full year of use, not per use or per day.

condom ad condoms too loose

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen