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Can You Get Pregnant When You’re Not Ovulating?

Understanding when it’s possible to get pregnant is important whether you’re trying to conceive or want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. During ovulation, your body releases an egg, which can be fertilized by sperm. In this Flo article, we explain all about when conception is possible, and when it’s not. 

Your “fertile window” refers to the time it’s possible to get pregnant. In a typical menstrual cycle of 28 days, there are around six days when you’re most fertile (five days leading up to ovulation through one day afterwards).

But it’s important to keep in mind that cycle length can vary greatly from person to person. Even in people with regular cycles each month, the timing of the fertile window can be highly unpredictable as ovulation can take place on different days.

So, can you get pregnant when you’re not ovulating? The short answer is yes. It’s possible to get pregnant outside of your predicted fertile window because timing of ovulation may differ each month and sperm lives in the body for several days. Therefore, though more unlikely at some points, pregnancy can result from unprotected sex at any time during your menstrual cycle. If you want to avoid pregnancy, there’s actually no “safe” time of the month to have unprotected sex so it’s important to always use contraception.

You can calculate your fertile window by tracking your cycles with Flo, observing your cervical fluid, and taking your body’s basal temperature. Using ovulation test kits will also make your predictions even more accurate.

Let’s take a closer look at the possibility of conception at the different phases of your cycle.

Ovulation usually occurs between days 11 and 21 of your cycle (14 before next menstruation). The first day of your period signifies the beginning of your next cycle. When you’re ovulating, an egg is released from your ovaries and moves down the uterine tube towards your uterus.

An egg lives 12-24 hours following ovulation, but sperm can live in the female reproductive system for up to five days after sex. Therefore, having sex from five days before or one day after ovulation can result in pregnancy.

A 2019 study found that women who have unprotected sex one day before ovulation had the highest probability of getting pregnant (41 percent).

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You may have heard that it’s not possible to get pregnant when you’re on your period, but this is a common myth. Although the chances are low, pregnancy is still possible during your period.

For instance, if you have a shorter menstrual cycle (around 21 to 24 days), having unprotected sex during your period could result in pregnancy. This is because sperm lives in the body for several days, so if you ovulate early in your cycle, conception could result from sex while on your period. 

Getting pregnant right before your period is extremely unlikely, but not impossible if you have a short cycle and ovulate very early on. 

While it’s not that likely, it’s still possible to get pregnant right after your period has finished. If you have a naturally shorter cycle and bleed for seven days, for instance, you can ovulate directly following your period and get pregnant.

To plan pregnancy, having sex every couple of days means that there will always be sperm ready to fertilize the egg as soon as it’s released. 

Just like periods aren’t always regular, neither is ovulation. The day you ovulate can vary from cycle to cycle, and in some cycles, ovulation may not happen at all. This is also normal.

Irregular ovulation occurs when the ovaries and pituitary gland (hormone regulator at the base of the brain) aren’t communicating properly about when to release an egg. 

In an anovulatory cycle, no ovulation takes place, meaning that your ovaries don’t release an egg. During this type of cycle, women may have some bleeding caused by uterine lining buildup or a drop in the estrogen hormone without having a true menstrual period.

Anovulation will make you skip fertile days if you’re trying to get pregnant, and is responsible for around 25 percent of female infertility cases.

It’s normal to have anovulatory cycles from time to time. It occurs most often when a person is first starting to menstruate or approaching menopause, as the body has a hormonal imbalance during these transitional periods, which interrupts ovulation. 

It is not possible to get pregnant in a cycle without ovulation. This is because in this type of cycle, no egg is available to be fertilized by sperm.

There are treatments available that can trigger a woman’s body to release a mature egg that allows for conception. If you’ve been trying to conceive for a while and think that ovulation issues may be present, get in touch with a health care provider. 

Pregnancy is possible between five days leading up to ovulation and one day afterwards, which is known as your fertile window. The timing of your fertile window can differ from month to month because ovulation isn’t always regular, so it’s important to always use contraception if you want to avoid pregnancy. If you’re trying to conceive a baby, having sex one day before ovulation has shown the best results. In the case of anovulatory cycles, it’s not possible to conceive if you don’t ovulate during your cycle at all because there is no egg available to get fertilized by sperm.

“How can I avoid pregnancy? Your contraception guide.” NHS, 24 Mar. 2021, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-can-i-avoid-pregnancy/

“Fertility Awareness-Based Methods of Family Planning.” ACOG, Jan. 2019, https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/fertility-awareness-based-methods-of-family-planning

Faust M.S., Louis et al. “Findings from a mobile application-based cohort are consistent with established knowledge of the menstrual cycle, fertile window, and conception.” Fertility and Sterility, vol. 112, no. 3, 01 Sept. 2019, pp. 450-457, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2019.05.008, https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(19)30432-7/fulltext

“Can I get pregnant just after my period has finished?” NHS, 23 May 2018, https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/can-i-get-pregnant-just-after-my-period-has-finished/#:~:text=You're%20most%20fertile%20at,period%2C%20although%20it%20can%20happen.

Wilcox, Allen J. et al. “The timing of the “fertile window” in the menstrual cycle: day specific estimates from a prospective study.” BMJ, 18 Nov. 2000, doi: 10.1136/bmj.321.7271.1259, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC27529/

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Female infertility.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 27 Jul. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/symptoms-causes/syc-20354308

“Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle.” NHS, 05 Aug. 2019, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/fertility-in-the-menstrual-cycle/#:~:text=The%20length%20of%20the%20menstrual,to%2040%20days%2C%20are%20normal.