The Complex Relationship Between Periods and Pregnancy
The relationship between periods and pregnancy is one which is constantly being questioned. A lack of open discussion and education has left many women unsure of the impact a period may or may not have on conception and contraception. Last year, there were 792,636 contacts to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services in the UK made by women with enquiries about pregnancy and contraception. The most likely age group to contact Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for contraception were 18-19 year old females.
So to help clear things up, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about periods and pregnancy.
Is it possible to get your period during pregnancy?
In short, no. You cannot experience a genuine menstrual period while you’re pregnant. The reason many women are confused by this fact is that it is possible to experience vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, but this is not the same thing as menstruation. In most cases, this spotting is the result of ‘implantation bleeding’, or due to a Pap smear, vaginal exam or sex. However, it can also be a sign of something more serious such as infection, placental issues, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If you experience any bleeding during pregnancy, seek advice from your GP as soon as possible.
When is the best time of the month to try for a baby?
One question many women ask themselves is ‘can you get pregnant anytime of the month?’ This is often born out of frustration at taking a long time to conceive. However, while just over a third of healthy couples will conceive in the first month of trying, it can often take longer. In fact, if you’re under 35 and in good health, it’s perfectly natural for conception to take up to a year. What’s more, it’s estimated that around one in seven couples struggles to conceive.
For the best chances of conception, couples should engage in intercourse within a day or so of ovulation. This describes the point when an egg is released from the ovary, and usually occurs around 14 days after the first day of your last period.
Do irregular periods make it more difficult to conceive?
According to clinical professor of obstetrics-gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, Amy Audrey, MD, at least 30% of women have irregular periods during their child-bearing years.
The effect this has on your chances of getting pregnant really depends on the underlying cause of your irregular periods. In most cases, it will have very little effect on your ability to conceive. However, in certain cases irregular periods can be the result of something more serious like fibroids, blood clotting, polyps or thyroid issues, which can impact your chances of getting pregnant as well as your overall health.
Can you get pregnant on your period?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to pregnancy and periods. The answer is that while you are far less likely to get pregnant on your period, you shouldn’t rely on this alone as a method of contraception. Monthly cycles can be unpredictable, and women with shorter cycles have an increased chance of getting pregnant during their period. Furthermore, it is perfectly possible to fall pregnant just before or just after your period, so using this as a method of contraception can be extremely risky.
The Importance of Contraception
No matter what method you choose, contraception is vital for preventing pregnancy and increasing the safety of your intercourse. The contraceptive pill is typically between 91-99% effective when it comes to preventing pregnancy, while an IUD is more than 99% effective. Male condoms are between 82-98% effective and female condoms are between 79-95% effective.
Simply put, you shouldn’t rely on timing sexual intercourse around your period as your sole method of avoiding pregnancy. If you want to enjoy intercourse without the risk of pregnancy, the right contraception is an absolute must.