While it is less likely to become pregnant during your period, it is still possible under certain circumstances.
The menstrual cycle is divided into different phases, including menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.Typicall y, ovulation occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle. However, the timing can vary from person to person, and sometimes, ovulation can occur earlier or later than expected.
Sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for up to five days, so if you have intercourse towards the end of your menstrual period and ovulate shortly after, it is possible for the sperm to fertilise an egg. Some women may experience irregular menstrual cycles, making it difficult to predict when ovulation will occur.
In such cases, it is possible to ovulate shortly after the menstrual bleeding stops, thus increasing the chances of pregnancy.
Your fertile period
The fertile window refers to the period of time during a woman’s menstrual cycle when she is most likely to conceive if she has unprotected sexual intercourse. It is centred around ovulation, which is the release of an egg from one of the ovaries.
The fertile window typically spans a few days before and after ovulation. The exact duration can vary from person to person, but it generally extends to about six days. This is because sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for up to five days, while the released egg is viable for about 12 to 24 hours.
To maximise the chances of conception, it is recommended to have intercourse regularly during the fertile window. By doing so, sperm will be present in the reproductive tract before the egg is released, increasing the likelihood of fertilisation.
Several methods can help identify the fertile window, including:
- The calendar methodThis involves tracking your menstrual cycle on a calendar and estimating the fertile window based on the average length of your cycles.This works best if you have a very regular menstrual cycle.
- Basal body temperature (BBT)Measure your body temperature every morning before getting out of bed in order to detect the slight increase that occurs after ovulation.
- The cervical mucus methodKeep an eye on the changes in your cervical mucus consistency throughout your cycle.As ovulation approaches, cervical mucus typically becomes clear, slippery and stretchy, resembling egg whites.
- Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs)These kits detect the luteinising hormone (LH) surge that occurs 24 to 36 hours before ovulation.A positive result indicates that ovulation is likely to happen soon.
Chances of conceiving
The odds of becoming pregnant during your period are generally low, but not zero. The menstrual phase of the menstrual cycle is characterised by the shedding of the uterine lining, which occurs when an egg released during the previous cycle was not fertilised.
While it is rare, there are a few factors that can increase the chances of pregnancy during menstruation, such as:
- Short menstrual cyclesIf you have a shorter menstrual cycle, with ovulation occurring shortly after your period ends, there is a possibility of sperm surviving long enough to fertilise an egg.
- Prolonged bleedingIf you experience prolonged bleeding during your period, it can overlap with the fertile window, increasing the chance of pregnancy if you ovulate soon after.
- Irregular cyclesIf your menstrual cycles are irregular, it can be challenging to predict when ovulation will occur.In such cases, ovulation may happen earlier or later than expected, potentially leading to pregnancy during menstruation.
As the probability of pregnancy is lower during menstruation, but not zero, you still need to take precautions if you are trying to avoid getting pregnant. It is recommended to use contraception consistently and correctly throughout your cycle, as well as consult with a healthcare professional for personalised family planning advice.
To be aware
There are also a few potential disadvantages or considerations to be aware of if you should become pregnant during your period, such as:
- Uncertainty of ovulationAlthough ovulation typically occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle, some women may experience irregular cycles or unpredictable ovulation, making it difficult to accurately determine when ovulation will happen.This uncertainty can affect the timing of conception and can lead to challenges in tracking the pregnancy’s progress.
- Difficulty in identifying pregnancyConceiving during menstruation can make it more challenging to identify early signs of pregnancy.It may be more difficult to differentiate pregnancy symptoms from menstrual symptoms, potentially leading to delayed recognition of pregnancy.
- Potential for confusion in dating the pregnancyEstimating the gestational age of the pregnancy can be more challenging if conception occurs during menstruation.This can affect prenatal care planning, as accurate dating is essential for monitoring foetal development and scheduling important prenatal tests and screenings.
- Higher risk of certain complicationsAlthough the overall risks are relatively low, studies have suggested a slightly higher risk of certain complications, such as preterm birth and low birth weight, when conception occurs close to the menstrual period.However, it’s important to note that these risks are generally small and may not apply to all cases.It is crucial to discuss any concerns or questions with a healthcare professional if you suspect you may be pregnant or have conceived during your period.They can provide personalised guidance and address any specific considerations based on your unique situation.
If you do get pregnant
If you suspect you may have gotten pregnant during your period, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate guidance. Here are a few points to consider:
- Confirming pregnancyA healthcare professional can help confirm whether you are pregnant or experiencing any other underlying condition that might mimic pregnancy symptoms.They may suggest a pregnancy test or perform other diagnostic procedures, if necessary.
- Assessing health risksIf you are indeed pregnant, the healthcare professional will assess the potential health risks associated with conceiving during your period.Generally, the risks are relatively low, but it’s important to have a proper evaluation to ensure the well-being of both you and your foetus.
- Monitoring the pregnancyYour healthcare professional will guide you through the necessary prenatal care.Regular check-ups, prenatal vitamins and appropriate lifestyle adjustments will be recommended to support a healthy pregnancy.
- Considering personal circumstancesIt’s essential to evaluate your personal circumstances and make decisions based on your individual needs and preferences.This might involve discussing the situation with your partner, considering your future plans and exploring the available options.Remember, each pregnancy is unique and it is crucial to seek professional medical advice for personalised guidance based on your specific situation.
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, 05 Jun 2023