How can I avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex?

I had unprotected sex with my partner. What should I do if we do not want to become pregnant?

Anytime semen comes into contact with the vagina or vulva (the female external genitalia), there is a risk of pregnancy. Sperm can survive for several days inside of a female’s body and fertilize an egg, resulting in pregnancy. Pregnancy can occur at any time during your menstrual cycle (even on your period!), so unprotected sex is not recommended at any time if you are trying to avoid pregnancy. However, there are certain times in your cycle that do carry a higher chance of pregnancy. The closer you are to ovulation, which is the release of an egg from one of the ovaries and generally occurs 14 days after the start of your menstrual cycle, the higher the chance of pregnancy. This period of time is called your “fertile window,” and can vary from woman to woman.

If you suspect that you or your partner is pregnant, we recommend obtaining a pregnancy test. Emergency contraceptives (the “morning after” pill that prevents ovulation or the intrauterine device) are available and highly effective if taken within three to five days of unprotected sex. Emergency contraceptives can reduce the risk of pregnancy for up to five days after having unprotected sex. Just as the name suggests, however, these methods should only be used in emergency situations when unprotected sex occurred or another method of contraception failed. They should not be taken regularly as a primary contraceptive.

All of us here at SexInfo would like to emphasize how important contraception is not only to prevent pregnancy, but also to prevent transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Condoms are one of the cheapest and most effective ways to do this, and can easily be found at your local drugstore or clinic. In the future, be sure to use proper protection when engaging in sexual conduct of any type.