Anonymous on September 9, 2011

I’ve been having unprotected sex, but my partner pulls out before he comes...could I still get pregnant?

I'm 32 and I should have known better. I recently started dating a guy, and we ended up having sex without a condom. My period comes every 29 days and last for about five days of blood and another seven days of on-and-off brown discharge. We had sex nine days after my period started and he pulled out of me before he came. Six days later, we had sex again...this time with a condom, but he first was inside me without a condom. But when he came, he had the condom on. We had sex three more times that night...all without a condom, but every time he pulled out. What do you think are my chance of getting pregnant? I haven't been on birth control in two years.

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 9, 2011

Thank you for sharing your question with us. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of the pregnancies in the United States are your concern is not only valid, but widespread.

First, let’s review the facts about pregnancy...getting pregnant requires a woman to ovulate, meaning that the ovaries release an egg that travels to one of the fallopian tubes. Ovulation usually occurs about 14 days prior to the start of a woman’s next period.

Since you said your cycle typically runs 29 days, you were likely ovulating at the time of your second sexual encounter(s) I would encourage you to take a home pregnancy test (HPT).

But take care to follow the instructions exactly...a study conducted by the Department of Internal Medicine at Duke University Medical Center showed that HPTs are frequently inaccurate due to user error. For even greater assurance, I would suggest that you confirm your HPT results with a doctor or at a trusted testing center like Planned Parenthood.

Remember, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg. Unfortunately, “pulling out” before ejaculation is a highly ineffective way to prevent pregnancy because pre-ejaculation fluid can contain sperm.

It’s a common misperception that men can control so-called “pre-cum"...the truth is that it’s impossible for a man to know when microscopic sperm escape during sex, sometimes long before ejaculation. But this misperception is often the cause of unintended pregnancies.

In future, keep in mind that latex male condoms ⎼ when used correctly and consistently ⎼ are highly effective as a means of both birth control and disease protection, especially when used with spermicide.

One more thing, in addition to your concerns about pregnancy...

I would encourage you and your partner to consider getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Why? Because having sex with someone new, or someone whose STD status you don’t know, puts you at risk. And once you know each other’s status, you’ll also know whether one or both of you needs treatment...and you can learn how to keep each other healthy by taking appropriate precautions (like practicing safer sex).

For more information about STD risks, prevention and testing, you might want to read through our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

Thanks again for your question, and I wish you good health and peace of mind.

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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