Can i get pregnant on non-fertile days?

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Getting pregnant on days considered “fertile” for women is not as obvious as one might think. Many women believe that the best days to conceive are those around the fourteenth day after menstrual flow.

Many also download apps or purchase specific “swabs” to check the “red” day, i.e., the day when procreation is most likely. Yet, scientific research has shown that this is not always true.



It is essential to understand that there are no natural contraceptive methods and one cannot rely on the fertile and non-fertile period. This latter, in fact, is not easily predictable, even for those very fortunate women who have a perfectly regular cycle. Not to mention the vast majority whose cycle is not always regular.

To be more precise, every woman experiences a fertile period every month that lasts from 5 to 6 days, and it is not possible to predict with certainty when the ovulatory peak, which corresponds to the best time to get pregnant, will occur. Ironically, even during the said ovulatory peak, the desired outcome is not guaranteed. But first, let’s clarify what is meant by “fertile period”: in gynecology, by “fertile days,” we mean the time when the egg is ready and available to be fertilized, and therefore, sexual intercourse might be successful.

At this particular time, there is a very high survival rate of the sperm inside the female uterus. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the best chance of getting pregnant is not during the ovulation peak, but two or three days before ovulation itself.

Many women, especially younger ones with less experience, however, don’t know that it is also possible to get pregnant on non-fertile days, even during the menstrual period. This leads them not to rely on contraceptives and thus risk an unwanted pregnancy. Let’s clarify, then, why one can get pregnant even on days outside of ovulation.


Menstrual cycle: how it works

Many patients, when they turn to a gynecologist, wonder if they can get pregnant even on days considered “non-fertile”. To answer this question, it is essential to deeply understand how the menstrual cycle works, considering the entire month, encompassing all the phases that revolve around menstruation itself.

On average, a menstrual cycle in a healthy woman, when it’s perfectly regular, lasts from 28 to 30 days. However, based on various external and internal factors, some women can experience longer cycles reaching up to 30 days or shorter cycles, ranging from 20 to 25 days. The beginning of the cycle is marked by the onset of menstrual flow, a bleeding that typically lasts from three to seven days or, in some exceptions, even longer.

During this sensitive phase, the female body produces hormones that help rapidly mature one of the eggs residing in the ovary. Halfway through the cycle, around the 14th day after the flow begins, what is called ovulation occurs. During this time, a woman is in the best position to try for pregnancy, as the egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube to be fertilized or not.

If fertilization does not occur, the body expels the blood, which we refer to as “menstruation”, thus starting a new menstrual cycle. However, it should be noted that women can get pregnant throughout the entire cycle and, therefore, throughout the month.



Fertile days: what are they?

One might naturally ask, what exactly are the fertile days? Well, the fertile days are those when a woman’s hormones make pregnancy easier. This doesn’t mean that they are the only days when sexual intercourse can successfully lead to conception.

Fertility is largely a matter of sperm survival, which can last up to 72 hours inside a woman’s body during the time of ovulation. On average, in a 28-day cycle, the most fertile window occurs from the 11th to the 16th day, as ovulation spans a timeframe of about 5-6 days.

During this time when the fertile window is at its peak, specific symptoms occur, termed in medical jargon as “ovulatory symptoms”. Oogenesis, one of the phases of the entire menstrual cycle along with the follicular and luteal phases, is not always clearly defined. However, it can be recognized based on some signs that the body sends out during this period.

There may be mood changes and variations in vaginal secretions. At this juncture, the cervical mucus becomes white, abundant, and viscous. It’s also not uncommon for there to be an increase in basal temperature.

This means that during the ovulation days, a woman might experience a slight increase in body temperature, which gradually reduces as the menstrual flow approaches. Another symptom of the ovulatory phase is breast tenderness; the breasts become hard and swollen as high estrogen levels make them feel sore.


Non-fertile days: is it possible to get pregnant?

Although the ovulatory phase is indeed the best time to try for a child, it should not be ruled out that one can become pregnant outside this stage of the cycle. There are various external and internal factors that influence the time of the month, sometimes shifting or even entirely canceling ovulation.

In this way, what we commonly call fertile days alternate, and often, the woman might not even notice. Every female experiences a cycle that changes in duration and symptomatology: for example, there are women who suffer from the so-called premenstrual syndrome or, even more debilitating, premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

This means that in certain individuals, hormonal changes do not go unnoticed. Instead, they cause physical and psychological problems that compromise regular daily activities. Therefore, even if one has a regular cycle, hormonal behavior cannot be regarded as something certain and reliable.

In short, a woman isn’t like clockwork even if menstruation arrives punctually every month. Thus, if one engages in unprotected sexual intercourse, it’s always a good idea to take a pregnancy test and consult a gynecologist if a delay or absence of menstruation occurs.


Can one get pregnant without ovulation?

Another frequent question women pose to their gynecologist is about the possibility of becoming pregnant if there’s no ovulation. In this case, the definitive answer is no.

Natural pregnancy occurs only when the egg is fertilized by sperm. Consequently, if ovulation does not happen, the process cannot begin, much like with contraceptive pills. Taking the latter skips the ovulatory period, and hence, the possibility of getting pregnant.

Conversely, for women who wish to have a child, considering what’s been said, it’s advised not to view ovulation as the only time to engage in sexual intercourse. Apart from placing tremendous pressure on both partners, leading the couple to experience acute stress, there’s no scientific proof that supports the notion that one cannot get pregnant outside of ovulation. On the contrary, studies and life experiences affirm the opposite. Moreover, it happens that many individuals get pregnant even during intercourse that occurs during menstruation.


In conclusion

To summarize, the menstrual cycle encompasses various phases, including the ovulatory phase where the likelihood of conception is highest. However, despite the fertile days being those around ovulation, every day of the month is a potential day for a woman to become pregnant, even when her cycle is as regular and punctual as a Swiss clock. One of the primary recommendations from most gynecologists is to monitor one’s body. There are several ways to better understand the processes that occur throughout the month. Hormones, in fact, communicate by sending signals throughout the body. One of the main clues indicating which phase of the menstrual cycle one is in, is the vaginal discharge, with more abundant than usual clear and thin secretions. Lastly, during these days, a woman also experiences an increase in libido, as biologically, it’s the optimal time for procreation and sexual intercourse.

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