Um, can I get pregnant if...? Part 2!

So many pregnancy myths to bust, so little time…

We got so many questions about pregnancy scares in the comments of the original “Um, can I get pregnant if…?” that we decided it was time for part 2. Last time we talked about specific sex acts that could lead to pregnancy—this time we’re talking the chance of pregnancy in various circumstances.

Can I get pregnant if I was drunk or high when we had sex?

Yes! Being drunk or high when you have sex has nothing to do with the biological chances of getting pregnant. Since being drunk or high probably makes you or your partner less likely to remember to use that condom or take that birth control pill, it may actually increase the chance of a pregnancy. If being drunk or high is part of your regular scene, consider doubling up to be super-safe with condoms and a birth control method you don’t have to remember in the moment like the implant, IUD, or shot.

Can I get pregnant if we’ve been having sex without birth control and haven’t gotten pregnant yet? Maybe I’m infertile.

Up to 1 in 6 young people believe that they may never be able to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant. In reality, very few young people are truly unable to get pregnant. Having sex without birth control and not getting pregnant means you got lucky. You may get lucky multiple times, but that doesn’t mean you’re infertile. It means you’re pushing your luck: 95 out of 100 young people who have penis-in-vagina sex at least once a week are pregnant within a year.

Can I get pregnant if I had an STI when we had sex?

Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis does not change the chances of pregnancy. Sperm still swim just fine, and having an infection doesn’t change the health of an egg.

Now, having repeated and untreated infections over time can cause scar tissue to build up in the fallopian tubes, increase your chance of infertility, which is why health care providers recommend that all sexually active people with a cervix under age 25 get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea at least once a year.

Can I get pregnant if I’ve been raped?

There have been some bizarre statements from public figures to the contrary, but let me assure you that there is no mechanism in the human body to prevent a pregnancy resulting from rape. In fact, this myth is so inaccurate and dangerous that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists made a public statement condemning it. You can’t control the release of an egg, whether that egg is fertilized, or whether it goes on to become a pregnancy—and it makes zero difference if it was rape or consensual sex.

Can I get pregnant if my partner masturbated before we had sex?

Absolutely. This myth is rooted in the fact it takes time for the testes to make new sperm. But studies have shown that the number of sperm in ejaculate don’t change much, even after masturbating multiple times each day for a week. The number of sperm stayed within the normal range—certainly enough to cause a pregnancy—for the whole week. The average person with testes makes huge amounts of sperm in a day (45-200 million), so this tactic just can’t beat biology.

Can I get pregnant if I just stopped using a hormonal method like the pill (or patch, or ring, or IUD, or implant…)? Doesn’t my body need to readjust first?

When you stop using most hormonal methods of birth control, you can get pregnant right away (which is why you have to take the pill every day for it to be effective). It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using the method. If you stop using birth control altogether, whether you were using hormonal or non-hormonal birth control, your chances of getting pregnant go back to whatever level of fertility is normal for you. We can’t say what your individual chances of getting pregnant are (we don’t know you like that), but we do know that 95 out of 100 young people who have penis-in-vagina sex at least once a week are pregnant within a year.

There is one exception. If you’re using the shot, which is designed to last for three months, it may take up to 10 months to get pregnant after the last shot (7 months after the shot is designed to wear off). Remember that these are generalizations about “most people”—some people get pregnant the month they stop using birth control and don’t start another method. It’s best to think of it this way: once you’re off your birth control, it’s open season to get pregnant.

Had unprotected sex and now you’re worried? If it’s been less than 5 days since you had unprotected sex, you may want to consider emergency contraception.

Keep the questions coming…. We’ll try to keep up!

Note: We do our best to respond to questions in the comments, but if we’ve already answered your question in the article or another comment, we may not answer it again. If your question is time sensitive, we recommend calling the Sex, Gender, and Relationships (SGR) Hotline at 415-989-7374 or contacting a health care provider.

Written by Grace Shih, MD, MAS

Grace Shih, MD, MAS, is an Assistant Professor at University of Washington. She completed her family medicine residency at Brown University and her family planning fellowship at University of California, San Francisco. When she’s not seeing patients, you can find her cooking, playing guitar, or traveling with her family.