Avoiding pregnancy when you are sexually active whether married or not can be challenging. Even with the availability of various contraceptive options, you might still prefer to do without them sometimes based on the side effects of these contraceptives. However, according to the UK National Health Service, there is no safe period or number of days after the menstrual period without using contraceptives without risking getting pregnant.
To better understand if there is any number of days after a woman’s period when it is safe for her to engage in sexual intercourse without a chance of getting pregnant, it would be important to look at the menstrual cycle first.
The menstrual cycle
To fully understand safe periods in regard to menstruation, it is important to understand a little about the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is a regular sequence of events occurring every month in a pre-menopausal woman who has attained the age of puberty which reflects the changes the body undergoes in preparation for conception and childbirth.
The menstrual cycle is typically the series of changes from the first day of your period to the first day of the next period. It usually averages 28 days in most women but the acceptable range is between 21-35 days.
The changes that occur during this period include the shedding of the endometrial lining of the womb (as menstruation), development, maturation and shedding of a matured oocyte from the ovaries, and the eventual preparation of the endometrial lining for pregnancy. This lining is cyclically shed off as menstruation if pregnancy does not occur. This can last for 3-7 days.
Around day 14, the mature is released and becomes available for fertilization by the sperm. If you have sexual intercourse around this time, you can get pregnant. The egg can remain viable in the woman for 12 to 24 hours, that’s roughly about a day, while the sperm can last up to 7 days after release into the woman. This makes it uncertain for a woman to avoid pregnancy without a contraceptive at any time of a woman’s cycle.
Can you get pregnant during your menstruation?
No, it is impossible for a woman to get pregnant during her menstrual period. This is because there are no eggs to fertilize during that time until about the 14th day when ovulation occurs. This period of menstruation is the safest period to have sexual intercourse without getting pregnant, but that does not make it absolutely safe. Recall, the sperm can stay viable for longer periods with an average of 7 days.
How many days after the menstrual period is safe to avoid pregnancy?
After having established that there is absolutely no safe period to avoid pregnancy without using a contraceptive, it is important to say that the longer it gets away from the period, the more likely it is to achieve pregnancy. From the illustration above, day 1 is the first day of menses and it ends on the 4th to 7th day. Day 14 is when ovulation occurs. That means day five to day fourteen is the period between menses and the next ovulation. Sexual intercourse during this period results in the storage of viable sperm within the female genital tract for an average of seven days. The closer you have sexual intercourse to the time of ovulation, the more likely it is to achieve pregnancy. This is known as the fertile period.
The fertile period is the time when a woman is most likely to achieve pregnancy if she has sexual intercourse with her partner. Aside from this period, the chances of getting pregnant are lower, but this does not make those other periods safe to avoid pregnancy. The best way to avoid pregnancy when having sexual intercourse is to use contraceptives, not as if the contraceptives are absolutely safe to avoid pregnancy, themselves.
How to avoid getting pregnant
The various methods to avoid getting pregnant during sex are referred to as contraception, and there are several contraceptive options. They include:
- Barrier methods: Condoms (male and female), diaphragm, cervical caps, spermicides, etc.
- Pills: Combined oral contraceptive pills (COCPs), Progesterone-only pills (POPs)
- Implants: Implanol and Jadelle, etc
Traditionally, the cycle method has been regarded as a natural method of contraception, where a couple plan sexual intercourse only for the woman’s less fertile period if they do not intend to get pregnant. This means that all days of a woman’s month are not the same. There are days when she is more fertile and days when she is less fertile. However, this does not exclude a chance of getting pregnant if she has sexual intercourse on any day without using a contraceptive. An understanding of the fertile and less fertile periods also helps couples plan for intercourse when they want to conceive.
On a final note, it is unsafe to rely solely on any calculation of the number of days after the period when it is safe to avoid pregnancy. The use of any form of contraceptive is what is generally recommended in the prevention of pregnancy when you are not ready for it.