Can I Get Pregnant During My Period?
Every woman has wondered about this at one time or another: can a woman get pregnant if she has sex when she has her period? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) performed research on the topic and found that in fact, women can become pregnant at just about any time during her menstrual cycle. While the chances of conception are greater at certain points during a woman’s menstrual cycle, the possibility of pregnancy is never off the radar.
The rhythm method has long been the only type of contraception permitted by the Catholic Church. This method attempts to predict the least fertile times (often called safe days) of a woman’s menstrual cycle, so that a woman can choose to have sex only on those days of her cycle. But used for this purpose, as a contraceptive measure, the rhythm method appears to be a dismal failure.
Some experts have said that the rhythm method is more useful for infertile couples trying to pin down the times they should have conception sex. But according to National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences researcher Dr. Allen J. Wilcox, this method is not much good for conception purposes, either. Wilcox says that couples who indulge in regular unprotected sex have conception rates that are about equal to those who watch for and wait to have sex during the window of fertility that occurs within each cycle.
The fertile point of the monthly menstrual cycle lasts about a week. However, sperm are hearty critters and can survive inside the reproductive tract for as long as a week. Meantime, a woman’s egg remains fertile for 24-48 hours after egg-release (ovulation). The tricky part here is that ovulation is very unpredictable. The good news is that the two groups of women that tend to have irregular menstrual cycles are those who are least likely to desire conception: teens and older women nearing menopause. On the other hand, those with thyroid disease also tend to have these irregular, unpredictable cycles.
For the purposes of the 2005 NIH study, Wilcox’s team of researchers observed the menstrual cycles of 213 women. The majority of the participants were aged 25-35 when cycles are most often regular. The researchers discovered that a woman’s window of fertility can last through to the very day that menstruation is to begin.
The researchers also found that women can begin the fertility window very early, even on the 4th day of the cycle (when many women are still menstruating) and that 17% are already fertile by the 7th day of the cycle. It\’s clear that menstruation does not guarantee that a woman who has sex at this time is safe from conception.