Editor’s note: The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.
Perhaps the most prolific category of sex myths is the “You can’t get pregnant IF” statement. For example, you can’t get pregnant if: you stand up right after, you have sex underwater, if the night before you thrice circled an oak tree and prayed to the Moon Goddess for sexual pleasure sans consequences, praise SHE.
Spoiler alert: None of these are true.
“As hard as we work to get people to understand how pregnancy happens and doesn’t happen, how they can avoid pregnancy, what are the risks and rewards of sex, they all boil down to questions around ‘Can i pregnant if,’ and there’s just a lot of mythology around how that happens,” Jennifer Johnsen, senior director for digital programs and education at the sex-ed advocacy organization Power to Decide said.
Luckily, the potentially sexually active people of the internet have an outlet for their questions. Over the years, people have taken to Google to interrogate their “You can’t get pregnant if” statements. And it turns out we have a lot of common questions and misconceptions.
Dr. Rebekah Rollston is a Cambridge Health Alliance family medicine physician and sexual health expert. It makes sense to her that people would turn to Google to ask questions about sex and pregnancy. Sex is a fact of life, but sexual education is on the decline.
“Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of sex education in our society,” Dr. Rollston said. “Because of this, people turn to their friends, peers, and the internet for sex information. However, this information isn’t always accurate or evidence-based.”
Sexual education is important to answer questions about sex and pregnancy, and to also foster “a culture of people who have healthy values regarding sex, intimacy, and relationships,” Dr. Rollston said. If we can create a culture, through sexual education, where sex and pregnancy are something we feel confident and comfortable asking about, perhaps there would be fewer Google searches, and less mythology, uncertainty, and fear about sex as a whole.
Alas, we’re not there yet. And Google is an indispensable resource for the sexually curious.
Google has provided Mashable with the 10 most commonly asked questions about sex over the last five years. Here are the answers, courtesy of Dr. Rollston. But you can take Jennifer Johnsen’s advice, too: “If somebody ejaculates on or near a vagina, pregnancy is possible.”
Here are the 10 most Googled ‘Can I get pregnant if …’ questions, answered.
1. Can I get pregnant on my period?
Yes. It’s unlikely but still possible. The standard menstrual cycle is 28 days, and ovulation generally occurs around day 14. However, many women have cycles that last anywhere from 20 to 40 days, and many women may not ovulate exactly halfway through their cycle. Furthermore, sperm can live within the female reproductive system for up to 5 days … so, depending on the day of ovulation, the time of intercourse and ejaculation, and the duration of a specific sperm’s life, a person could become pregnant while on their period.
2. Can I get pregnant from precum?
Yes. It’s unlikely but still possible. Precum does contain sperm, though less than the typical ejaculate. So, if precum is exposed to the vaginal canal, it has the potential to result in pregnancy.
3. Can I get pregnant after my period?
Yes. Cycles vary from person to person, and variable circumstances around sex and sperm make this possible. Refer to question 1 for more details.
4. Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
Yes, you can definitely become pregnant while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is often regarded as a natural form of birth control during the postpartum period. You’re less likely to become pregnant while breastfeeding if the following are true: the infant is less than 6 months of age, the infant exclusively breastfeeds, and you haven’t yet resumed a regular menstrual cycle. Also keep in mind, it may be difficult for a person to tell when their body has resumed regular menstruation … it’s common to have vaginal bleeding for 4 to 6 weeks following vaginal delivery (referred to as lochia) and thus, it may be difficult to differentiate lochia from menstruation.
5. Can I get pregnant right after my period?
Yes. It’s unlikely but still possible — refer to question 1 for more details.
6. Can I get pregnant on the pill?
Yes. The birth control pill is about 91 percent effective, which means that 91 out of 100 people will NOT become pregnant on the pill, though this means that 9 out of 100 people may become pregnant while using the pill. This is partly due to incorrectly taking the birth control pill … so, if you take the pill at the same exact time every day, and don’t miss a day, your chance of becoming pregnant is lessened.
7. Can I get pregnant before my period?
Absolutely. Refer to question 1 for more details on cycles. It’s very possible to become pregnant shortly before your period, depending upon the day of ovulation, the time of intercourse and ejaculation, and the duration of a specific sperm’s life.
8. Can I get pregnant after ovulation?
Absolutely! This is when women most commonly become pregnant. The most likely time to become pregnant is in the 5 days before and 5 days after ovulation (approximately days 9 to 19 of a 28-day menstrual cycle).
9. Can I get pregnant a week before my period?
Absolutely. Refer to question 1 for more details, but this could still fall in the ovulation window.
10. Can I get pregnant on birth control?
Yes, though this is less likely if the birth control is used correctly. The most effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy is regular use of birth control! However, no method is 100 percent effective, which even includes having your tubes tied. Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is the most effective birth control method to prevent pregnancy — more than 99 percent effective. LARCs include intrauterine devices (IUDs), like Skyla, Liletta, Kyleena, Mirena, ParaGard, and the Nexplanon arm implant.