Getting Pregnant On Your Period

Are There Risks of Getting Pregnant When You’re Having Your Period?

Avoiding pregnancy is not as simple as waiting to have sex on your period. If you do want to plan sex for when you are less likely to get pregnant then it is not so simple.

Find out why you're still at risk of getting pregnant on your period and what you can do to get protected.

Dr Simran Deo Medical Editor

Medically reviewed by

Dr Simran Deo

Last reviewed: 29 Oct 2019

I’m on My Period – Can I Get Pregnant?

It is possible to get pregnant on my period? – yes, if you are not using any form of contraception. On average a young couple who have sex have a 15–20% chance of getting pregnant. It is important to remember you can get pregnant if the man's sperm is able to reach the egg to fertilise it.

Isn’t it possible to plan sex and your period so you don’t get pregnant? – yes, natural family planning methods such as the rhythm method, if followed properly, can be up to 99% effective, but it is much less effective in practice. It works by avoiding sex to prevent pregnancy or use barrier contraception such as condoms when a female is fertile. There are apps which can help you to follow your natural cycle, so you are able to work out when you are most fertile.

If I’m on my period doesn’t that mean there’s no egg in my womb? – yes, but remember that sperm can survive up to 6 days inside the female body. All pregnancies can be associated with a six-day period in their cycle – so having intercourse within this time can result in pregnancy. The sixth day is the end of the period and the day of ovulation. The length of time sperm can survive in the human body means you could be at risk of pregnancy even if you are on your period.

Do I Need to Use Protection on My Period?

Yes, if you don’t want to get pregnant – because there is a risk of pregnancy when you’re on your period, to avoid getting pregnant you should begin taking long-term contraception.

If you need to get protection immediately – the following contraceptives can be started straight away:

  • The combined contraceptive pill
  • Male condom
  • The contraceptive patch
  • Progestogen-only pill (mini-pill)

Protection against STDs matters too – you also need protection from sexually transmitted diseases as well as getting pregnant. Barrier method contraceptives like condoms can help here.

What if I’m sure I’m not at risk of pregnancy? – even if you’ve carefully planned your periods using the rhythm method, there is still a chance you could get pregnant, so we recommend using another method of contraception.

Am I Pregnant Now?

If you think you may be pregnant – you should carry out a home pregnancy kit and consult a doctor to be sure. You can get a pregnancy test for free from the following places:

  • Community contraceptive clinic
  • Sexual health clinic
  • Brook centre – if you’re under 25

Alternatively – you can purchase a pregnancy test from pharmacists and supermarkets. They are simple to use and can be carried out in the privacy of your own home. You only need to pee on a stick and the result will appear in a few minutes. The test detects the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) which is normally released around 6 days after an egg is fertilised.

Signs you may be pregnant include:

Missing a period – the earliest and most reliable sign

Feeling sick:

  • Nausea and vomiting usually known as morning sickness
  • Not just in the morning but any time during the day or night
  • Usually 6 weeks after the last period


  • During the first 12 weeks feeling tired or exhausted is normal due to pregnancy-related hormonal changes

Sore/tender breasts:

  • Breasts can become larger and feel sore
  • Nipples can stand out and become dark
  • Visible veins

Regular urination:

  • Feel the urge to pass urine more often
  • Often during the night

Food cravings:

  • Senses may become heightened
  • Metallic taste in your mouth
  • Crave new or specific foods
  • Can lose interest in certain food and drink you may have enjoyed before pregnancy

What can I do if I’ve had unprotected sex on my period

– if you have had unprotected sex, emergency contraception is available. There are 3 types:


  • Emergency contraceptive pill
  • Contains levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of progesterone, a natural hormone
  • Thought to prevent or delay ovulation
  • Doesn’t interfere with regular methods of contraception
  • Needs to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex


  • Emergency contraceptive pill
  • Contains ulipristal acetate
  • Prevents pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation
  • Needs to be taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex
  • May reduce the contraceptive action of any contraceptive pill you take

The intrauterine device (IUD):

  • T-shaped contraceptive device
  • Inserted into the womb by a health professional
  • Prevents an egg implanting in the womb or prevents an egg being fertilised
  • Can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex, or in some particular circumstances slightly longer

How Do I Know if I’m Protected From Pregnancy?

The only way to get protection from pregnancy is if you’re using a reliable form of contraception.

You can get pregnant even if:

  • It’s your first time having sex
  • You have sex at any time during the month including while on your period
  • The man pulls out before ejaculation
  • You haven’t started your periods
  • You don’t have an orgasm

Contraception is effective to prevent against pregnancy – to prevent yourself from getting pregnant you should use contraception. There is a small risk of pregnancy even if you take precautions. For example, the 99% effectiveness of the combined oral contraceptive pill means that 1 in 100 women can still get pregnant while taking it. Therefore, it is always a good idea to use a combination of precautions such as the pill and the condom for example.

Even if you do use protection you still can’t know for sure that you're not pregnant. You should pay attention to how regular your period is and check for signs of pregnancy to be sure.

Am I Using Contraception Properly?

Using the pill correctly – you need to take every dose of your pill at the same time every day for maximum protection against pregnancy. Things that can stop your contraceptive from working include:


  • Rifampicin-like antibiotics
  • Some epilepsy drugs
  • HIV and Hepatitis medications
  • Herbal remedy – St John’s Wort

Sickness and diarrhoea:

  • Can affect the pill
  • If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the pill it will not have been absorbed
  • Take another straight away
  • If you continue to vomit or have diarrhoea your protection against pregnancy is affected
  • Carry on taking your pills as normal if you can and use extra protection such as condoms

Missed pills:

  • Missing pills or starting a pack late can affect your protection
  • You may need to use extra protection

Detox tea

  • These can “flush” your system so may induce diarrhoea or clear your bowels which can mean your pill won’t be absorbed
  • This will affect your protection against pregnancy

Using condoms correctly – using a condom is the safest way to protect against STIs. Some of the misconceptions surrounding condoms can include:

It doesn’t feel natural – there are examples which are thinner which can still make sex feel natural while using condoms

I don’t have any money for them – you can obtain condoms for free from:

  • GP
  • Sexual Health Clinics
  • Community contraception clinics

We don’t need to use them we’ve been together for a while – STIs such as chlamydia may not have recognisable symptoms so unless you've been tested it's better to be safe

I’m allergic:

  • Non-latex condoms are available
  • Try using condoms without spermicide

Avoid damaging your condom:

  • A condom which rips during intercourse can affect your protection
  • You should use extra protection such as the emergency contraceptive pill if this happens
  • Make sure you use the condom properly e.g. as the instruction manual states

Other methods – such as pulling out before ejaculation can also be risky. This is because some of the fluid that leaves the penis before ejaculation, may contain some sperm and so can leave you at risk of becoming pregnant.

Always use contraceptives as advised – to ensure you are using your method of contraception correctly and ensure maximum effectiveness you should follow the instructions on the packet or the advice given by your GP or pharmacist.

Should I Be on the Pill?

As long as a doctor agrees the pill is right for you then it is a convenient and effective form of contraception.

There are advantages of being on the combined pill, including:

  • It is 99% effective if used properly
  • Doesn’t interrupt sex
  • Can reduce the risk of ovarian, womb and colon cancer
  • Can make bleeds lighter, more regular and less painful

The combined pill can have side effects, especially when you first start taking it, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness

If you get side effects you can’t put up with, then the pill may not be the best form of contraception for you. Instead you may need to use another method. Other reliable methods can include:

  • The contraceptive implant:
  • Small tube inserted under the skin of the upper arm
  • Prevents ovulation by slowly releasing progestogen
  • Lasts for up to three years
  • The contraceptive injection:
  • Usually last between 8 and 13 weeks
  • Injection contains progesterone which:
  • Prevents the release of an egg
  • Thickens mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg
  • Thins the womb lining
  • The IUD
  • A copper coil that is inserted into the womb, preventing fertilisation and implantation
  • Last between 5 and 10 years
  • Does not contain hormones
  • The IUS:
  • A small plastic coil that is inserted into the uterus
  • Releases progesterone which thins the lining of the womb and thickens the mucus of the cervix to prevent sperm entering the womb
  • Lasts up to 5 years
  • Patch:
  • Like a nicotine patch but delivers hormones to the body
  • Releases oestrogen and progesterone and so works in the same way as the combined pill

Getting started on the pill – you can get assessed for the pill from a doctor who can provide you with a prescription for a pill if appropriate.

Once you’re on the pill – you can order from our online service for the first time, or reorder as long as you are not having any complications. You will need to fill in our brief questionnaire where your answers will be assessed by one of our doctors. They will then decide whether it is appropriate for you to continue taking the pill from the answers you have provided.


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