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Are you fertile after your period?

Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


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Tracking your menstrual cycle has many benefits. If you’re trying to get pregnant, knowing when you’re most likely to be fertile can help you conceive more quickly. If you don’t want to get pregnant, then knowing your most fertile days can help you plan accordingly.

However, there’s a significant amount of inaccurate and misleading information out there. For instance, some believe that you can’t get pregnant during or right after your period.

So are you fertile after your period? Can you get pregnant after you’ve put away your tampons and go-to period snacks? The answer is yes.

While you might not be at your most fertile right after your period, you can still get pregnant. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about your cycle, fertility, fertile period, peak fertility, and preventing unwanted pregnancy.

Menstrual cycle 101

We probably don’t need to tell you that no two menstrual cycles are alike. Some people who menstruate have consistent, 28-day cycles. Others have shorter, more inconsistent cycles. Cycle length and consistency are two key factors in fertility, so let’s look at some basic facts about your cycle: [1]

  • Your menstrual cycle length – During your menstrual period, your body sheds the monthly buildup of the uterine lining. [2] On average, regular cycles are about 28 days long. However, some people have a shorter cycle. Your cycle might be only 21 days long, for example. Others are longer, lasting up to 30 days or more. Further complicating matters, your cycle might not always be the same length. Women with an irregular cycle can experience variations from month to month, which makes tracking peak fertility difficult.
  • Ovulation and fertility – Within your menstrual cycle, the most fertile period is when ovulation occurs. This is typically somewhere in the middle of your cycle—usually between days 12 to 14. However, the exact time you ovulate, just like your cycle length, your fertile window can vary. This also makes it tough to pinpoint the window for peak fertility. During this time, your body releases a luteinizing hormone to help control your menstrual cycle. luteinizing Hormone levels quickly increase just before ovulation. [3] Some women may experience changes in their bodies during ovulation. These signs of high fertility in a woman include slight elevation of body temperature, breast tenderness, changes in cervical mucus, cramps, abdominal pain, and bloating. [4]
  • Egg availability for conception – Once you ovulate, your mature egg is viable for conception for between 12 to 24 hours. This means that the more days it has been since you ovulated, the less likely you are to become pregnant.
  • Cycle irregularities – Finally, every individual who menstruates has a unique cycle. Within your cycle, you may experience irregularities. For example, you may notice bleeding between periods. Spotting like this can be mistaken for the beginning of your period but may have an entirely different cause.

Factors that make it more likely you can get pregnant after your period

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of your menstrual cycle, let’s discuss how your period can impact your likelihood of becoming pregnant. While it’s possible to get pregnant right after your period, three key factors make it more likely to occur.

1. Your age can play a role in post-period fertility

The first factor that might make you more likely to become pregnant right after your period is your age. [5] Although your fertility declines as you get older, your cycle becomes more unpredictable for the following reasons:

  • Your cycle may vary in length from month to month
  • You may ovulate earlier in your cycle
  • Menopause can also change your cycle

Therefore, if you are approaching menopause or in your later thirties or early forties, you may ovulate on day 8 or 9 of your cycle, for example. If your period lasts from days 1 through 6, you could be fertile on day 8 or right after your period ends.

2. Your cycle and its regularity can also influence fertility

Many people have an irregular cycle. Sometimes the length can vary from month to month. Other times, ovulation can occur on different days during the cycle. Several factors can change the regularity of your cycle, including: [6]

  • Menopause
  • Stress
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Medication
  • Adrenal gland problems
  • Diabetes and other medical conditions
  • Thyroid problems
  • Excessive exercise
  • Not eating enough

While these specific factors may not directly affect your fertility, they can change your cycle and make it more difficult to know exactly when ovulation occurs and when you’re most likely to conceive.

3. The frequency with which you have unprotected sex can also play a role

As we mentioned earlier, an egg is viable for conception for about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. Sperm, however, have a longer lifespan. In fact, sperm can live inside your body for up to five days. [7]

Therefore, if you frequently have unprotected sexual intercourse while on your period and immediately afterward, it’s more likely that viable sperm will be around when you ovulate. Since your egg can be fertilized during that small, 24-hour window, having viable sperm present makes it more likely that you can become pregnant.

What is the likelihood that you’ll get pregnant throughout your cycle?

Now that you know the answer to the question of “are you fertile after your period?” is maybe, let’s talk numbers. According to a 2018 study, the likelihood of conception in individuals between the ages of 25 to 40 typically follows these patterns: [8]

  • Most likely, when you have sex 1 to 2 days before ovulation
  • Lower likelihood when sex is three or more days before ovulation
  • The lowest likelihood occurs when sex is approximately 7 days before ovulating

However, keep in mind that your cycle isn’t perfect. A lower likelihood doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance for pregnancy to occur. Ovulation can happen at different times each month, and you can still get pregnant if you have sexual intercourse while you have your period.

How can you prevent an unwanted pregnancy?

Luckily, you can prevent unwanted pregnancy by using some of the widely available and highly effective contraceptive options out there. Some of the most effective forms of birth control include: [9]

  • Birth control pills are 90 to 99% effective when used properly
  • IUDs come in hormonal and non-hormonal versions and are 99% effective
  • Implants are approximately 99% effective
  • A birth control shot is up to 94% effective
  • A vaginal ring is about 91% effective
  • The birth control patch is also 91% effective

Further methods of birth control include barrier protection such as condoms, diaphragms, and a birth control sponge. These are all effective approximately 70 to 80% of the time when used properly. Fertility awareness methods, withdrawal, and other “natural” birth control measures are not as likely to be effective and have a higher chance of failure.

If you aren’t currently using any form of contraception and you don’t want to become pregnant, you should speak with a healthcare provider about the best options for your situation.

Does birth control affect fertility when you stop taking them? Not necessarily. Once you stop contraceptive use, it will not delay or negatively affect your ability to conceive. [10]

What are some early signs of pregnancy?

Even when you use highly effective forms of birth control, there is still a tiny chance that you may become pregnant when you have sex. Some of the earliest signs of pregnancy can be tricky to detect, especially because they often mirror the symptoms you get before your period. A few signs that indicate you might be pregnant can include: [11]

  • Feeling excessively tired
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Tender or swollen breasts

While you don’t get your period if you’re pregnant, you may have light bleeding or spotting. Some people mistake this for their period and don’t realize they are pregnant. If you think you might be pregnant, you should take a pregnancy test to confirm.

Testing for pregnancy and fertility

Pregnancy testing is quite simple, and most tests are 99 to 100% accurate. You can find pregnancy tests at many stores. They rely on hormones in your urine to determine if you are pregnant or not. [12]

Some things you should know about pregnancy tests include:

  • You should take a pregnancy test as soon as possible after a missed period
  • Some tests might be able to detect hormones in your urine as soon as 10 days after unprotected sex
  • The most accurate readings will come approximately three weeks after unprotected sex
  • It is possible to get a false positive or negative test, so it’s a good idea to take a second test if you aren’t certain

If you're trying to get pregnant and haven't been able to for over a year, you might want to speak with your healthcare provider about checking your hormone levels. You may have other health-related factors contributing to infertility.

Learn more about your fertility levels with Everlywell

It’s a fairly common misconception that you cannot get pregnant if you have sex while you have your period or right after your period ends. However, this is not true. It is possible to become pregnant during or after your period. This is because there can be irregularities in your menstrual cycle and ovulation days. As you get older, it becomes more difficult to pinpoint precisely when you are at your most fertile.

One way you might be able to get a better handle on your fertility levels is to take a test that measures certain hormones that influence your fertility. The Everlywell Women’s Fertility Test is a simple, at-home test that can do just that. The test requires a finger-prick blood sample. You send that sample to a secure lab and receive your results shortly after.

This allows you to better understand your fertility levels so that you can take action as needed, whether you want to either conceive or prevent pregnancy.

Does birth control affect fertility? Effects of birth control on fertility

What are the signs of high fertility in a woman?

Understanding the relationship between endometriosis and fertility

3 symptoms of failed implantation of fertilized egg

Understanding high fertility vs. peak fertility: key points to know


References

  1. Planned Parenthood. Can You Get Pregnant During Your Period? URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. OASH. Your menstrual cycle. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  3. NIH. Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Levels Test. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  4. NHS. How can I tell when I'm ovulating? URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  5. Human Reproduction. Changes with Age in the Level and Duration of Fertility in the Menstrual Cycle. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  6. NIH. What Causes Menstrual Irregularities? URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  7. American Pregnancy Association. Can You Get Pregnant on Your Period? URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  8. Fertility and Sterility. Findings from a Mobile Application-Based Cohort. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  9. Planned Parenthood. Birth Control. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
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