Um, can I get pregnant if…?

Myths, gray areas, foreign agents—we got deets.

Pregnancy scares: most people have one at some point. Even when you know how pregnancy happens, most textbooks don’t cover what specific sex acts could result in pregnancy. So let’s talk details…

Can I get pregnant if there was no penetration?

Yep. Sperm are very efficient swimmers. Anytime semen gets inside your vagina or even just on your vulva you could potentially get pregnant.

Can I get pregnant if I have sex right before, right after, or during my period?

Yes, yes, and yes! You’re most likely to get pregnant if you have sex around the time of ovulation, but it is possible to get pregnant at any time during your cycle.

Ovulation, when an egg is released from the ovary, usually occurs about 14 days after the start of your last period. However, ovulation can be unpredictable and some people may have spotting at the time of ovulation, which could be confused with a period. And sperm stay alive and swimming for days after sex.

Can I get pregnant if my clothes were on?

No. Dry humping cannot lead to pregnancy.

Since sperm cannot swim through clothing, getting pregnant while clothed (and that, of course, means while wearing clothing that prevents penetration—a mini-skirt pulled up around your waist doesn’t count!) would be very unlikely. Sperm exposed to air lose their ability to swim and can only live a few hours or less. Wearing or touching clothes with dry semen cannot lead to pregnancy.

What if he fingered me and there was semen or pre-cum on his fingers?

Yes, you can get pregnant. It doesn’t matter how the sperm gets into your vagina—once it’s there it can cause a pregnancy.

Pre-cum, or pre-ejaculate, is a clear fluid that accumulates at the tip of the penis when some penis-owners are aroused. While it has less sperm than regular ejaculate, it can have sperm in it, so you may be able to get pregnant.

Can I get pregnant from sex toys?

Only if the sex toys have semen on them.

Like the scenario above, you can only get pregnant if sperm enters your vagina. If semen is on a sex toy and it enters your vagina, you can become pregnant.

What if I have sex in a pool or hot tub?

Sorry, if you have penis-in-vagina sex in a pool or hot tub you can still get pregnant. You can’t however get pregnant from swimming in water that has semen in it.

The heat or chlorine in a hot tub or pool can kill sperm in the water, but it will not kill sperm or make it more difficult for sperm to swim if the sperm is inside the vagina. Once the penis ejaculates inside the vagina—whether you are in a pool, hot tub, or romantic, candle-lit bedroom—you can get pregnant!

Can I get pregnant from oral sex? Anal sex?

Nope. You cannot get pregnant from having only oral or anal sex.

An egg is released from the ovary and travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. For a pregnancy to occur, semen has to get into the vagina, which is the canal leading to the uterus. The mouth and butt are not connected to the vagina, so there’s no way for sperm to meet an egg. And no, swallowing semen won’t lead to pregnancy.

However, keep in mind that the anus and vagina are very close together, so if you have anal sex, there is a chance of semen dripping out of the anus onto the vulva (the external genitalia) and into the vagina. Make sure no semen comes in contact with your vulva.

Do you have to have an orgasm to get pregnant?

No. Unfortunately, pregnancy has nothing to do with how much you enjoyed the sex, how much you liked the person you had sex with, or whether you had an orgasm.

Orgasms are a totally independent phenomenon and are not related to when an egg is released.

I had sex standing up, so won’t gravity stop the sperm from swimming?

No. Sperm can swim up, down, sideways, in all directions, so you can get pregnant no matter how creative you get with positions. Gravity cannot prevent sperm from reaching your egg.

I had unprotected sex, and I’m worried about pregnancy.

If it’s been less than five days since the act in question, you might want to take emergency contraception. There are several options including two types of emergency contraception pills (one that anyone can get over the counter without a prescription and one that you can get with a prescription from your health care provider). The IUD (both the hormonal and non-hormonal kinds) can also be used as emergency contraception.

If it’s been longer than five days, you can buy a pregnancy test at most drug stores or dollar stores, or you might be able to get a test for free at a local health center. The tests are easy—just pee on a stick or in a cup and get results in a few minutes. If you buy a home pregnancy test, read and follow the instructions that come with it. You have to wait at least 10 days after having sex to know if you are pregnant, and the tests are more accurate if you wait until a few days after you expect your next period.

Is there anything else I should watch out for with unprotected sex?

Unprotected sex carries a risk of pregnancy, but there are other risks to unprotected sex too, such as infections. An infection can affect your future fertility, so use a condom to protect yourself. And if you aren’t trying to get pregnant, you can reduce the worry factor with one of your many birth control options.

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. You may also want to check out our sequel to this post, Um, can I get pregnant if…? Part 2! which looks at pregnancy risk under various circumstances.

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.