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    Can You Get Pregnant Without Having Sex? Experts Explain How It Can Happen

    Published 09 July 2021
    Fact Checked
    EBCOG
    Reviewed by EBCOG, the European Board & College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
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    There are a few different ways that pregnancy can happen when someone is within their fertile window. Keep reading to learn all about what Flo’s medical experts say about getting pregnant with no intercourse.

    How does conception happen?

    Conception happens when sperm joins a healthy egg, usually by swimming up through the vagina. Simply speaking, conception happens when sperm and egg meet each other. But for this to happen, this meeting needs to occur at the proper time, place, and circumstances (ovulation). During ovulation, the ovaries release one or more eggs, which travel down one of the uterine tubes toward the uterus.

    Ovulation typically occurs 12 to 16 days before your next period, but the exact timing can vary from month to month. In 2020, Flo collaborated with the University of Adelaide to conduct a large study on cycle length. It showed that only one in seven females in the study ovulated on the 14th day of their cycle. 

    Sometimes, ovulation might occur twice within one cycle, or an egg could be released from the ovary right before a period. Once the egg is released, it can live for 12 to 24 hours. Because sperm can live inside the female reproductive system for up to five days, the five days leading up to ovulation and the day after are known as the fertile window.

    The fertile window is when it’s possible to get pregnant. The precise timing of the fertile window can be difficult to predict. Tracking your cycle with Flo and using ovulation kits can help you predict the timing of your fertile window more accurately.

    Millions of sperm are released in each ejaculation. Most or almost all of them will die on the journey toward the egg, but it only takes one sperm fertilizing an egg for conception to happen.

    An infographic illustrating the process of conception.

    How can you get pregnant with no intercourse?

    If you’re wondering if you can get pregnant without penetration, the answer is yes.

    A study published in 2019 studied 20 pregnant women who had vaginismus in Tunisia, a condition that affects around one percent of the global female population. Vaginismus causes spasms in the vagina that prevent penetration during sex. The researchers found that 65 percent of them conceived without vaginal penetration (ejaculation occurred outside the vagina), and the rest either used artificial insemination or other assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant. 

    Can conception happen if sperm is on the outside of the vagina?

    Can you get pregnant if sperm is on the outside of the vagina? What if sperm gets near the vagina?

    In order for conception to take place, sperm needs to enter the vagina. This is still possible even if a partner does not ejaculate inside the vagina, though. For example, if there’s semen on the fingers and they come into contact with the vagina during the fertile window, then conception is possible. But sperm has to meet certain parameters to make natural conception possible. This means that in addition to the presence of semen in the vagina, sperm concentration, motility, and some other characteristics may play a role as well.

    So if a partner ejaculates and some semen touches the vagina, pregnancy is possible. If an erect penis touches the vagina or vulva, precum that contains sperm can also fertilize an egg and result in pregnancy. 

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    How deep does sperm need to go to conceive?

    There are lots of pregnancy myths and speculation about which sex positions are the best for conception by allowing sperm to reach deeper into the vagina. You may have heard that deep penetration boosts the chances of getting pregnant.

    There’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that any one position makes it easier to conceive. Following ejaculation, sperm enters the vagina, swims toward the cervix, and can enter the uterine tubes within minutes.

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