Can you get pregnant after your period?

Dr Anne HendersonDr Anne Henderson

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Dr Anne Henderson, Consultant Gynaecologist

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Pregnant woman relaxing by reading a book Pregnant woman relaxing by reading a book

This comes with lots of changes – some of them pretty obvious, but some of them may come as a surprise. Like changes in your discharge.

When your period ends, you may think your body is temporarily in a state where it cannot conceive. After all, your understanding of this natural process would lead you to believe that any fertile eggs would have been cleared out with your menstrual blood. While it is less likely, you can get pregnant right after your period. Rather than guessing, you want to know “How many days after my period can I get pregnant?” There is a chance you could conceive – at any stage, due to numerous factors.

Can you get pregnant while on your period?

When you see vaginal bleeding, you may think that the chances of getting pregnant while on your period is lower since your body is clearing away any recently released eggs. However, the sight of blood could arise from ovulation, which means you have an egg ready to be fertilised.

While you are less likely to get pregnant during your period, it is still possible.
Your period begins 7 to 19 days after an egg is released – although usually between 12 and 16 days -- and travels down your Fallopian tubes. It survives for 12 to 24 hours, waiting to encounter viable sperm. If that does not happen, your body prepares for the next opportunity for pregnancy by shedding the blood-rich lining of your uterus and starting anew.
Typically, your body ovulates every 28 to 30 days, but some women have cycles of 20 or even 40 days between their periods and their next ovulation. You can track your personal patterns by counting the days between the start of one period and the next one. There are a few tools available, including paper journals, predictor kits or mobile apps.

If you are trying to get pregnant, this ovulation calculator may help you pinpoint the perfect timing.
While the chances of getting pregnant while on your period are particularly low in the first two days, it climbs to nine per cent by Day 13 after menstruation begins.

If you are trying to conceive, this is not the optimal time to achieve that goal. However, if you are not ready for a baby in your near future, then stick with your birth control plan during your entire cycle.
Even if you are taking birth control pills, you can conceive while taking the placebo pills during the inactive-pill week of the prescription. These pills are 91-per-cent effective at preventing pregnancy, as long as you take them consistently during the entire month.

Can you get pregnant after your period?

Most people who ask this really mean: “How many days after my period can I get pregnant?”
At this point in your cycle, you have likely shed the unfertilised egg long after it was viable and your body is not due to produce a new egg for another week.
However, since sperm can live up to three days after ejaculation, it could still fertilise an egg if a woman has a shorter ovulation cycle. The odds of conception increase every day after your bleeding stops, since you are getting closer to your next ovulation.
You can count it out this way, starting from the first day of your period as Day 1; if bleeding stops on Day 6 and you have sex on Day 7, that sperm could live until Day 11 when you ovulate next.

Can you get pregnant before your period?

The answer to this question depends when you have sex, as in how many days before your period.
If you have sex right before your period begins, the odds of getting pregnant are much lower, since the egg is no longer viable.

You generally have a six-day window each month where conditions are ideal for you to conceive – five days before ovulation and the day of the egg’s release. Since you ovulate 12 to 16 days before your period begins, this is the prime time – between Days 11 and 21 of your cycle -- to get pregnant. Once released, your egg only survives 12 to 24 hours, so there is a small window of time for it to get fertilised. The beginning of menstruation typically indicates that did not happen. At the same time, your body gets a signal to hold off from releasing any additional eggs until the full cycle has occurred.
However, women with shorter cycles will ovulate earlier, so the odds of them conceiving within a week of their previous period is higher. Remember, sperm can live for three to five days after entering a woman, so if it encounters an egg during that window of time, it can begin a pregnancy.

Disclaimer: This information aims to answer some of your questions or concerns. If you are worried about your health, talk to your family doctor or your gynecologist for professional medical advice.

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