How To Get Pregnant - The Physical Stuff
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The ins and outs of conception
Sexual intercourse can result in pregnancy when a man and a woman have sex without using contraception, or their contraception fails. In order to become pregnant, a woman's body must release an egg from one of her ovaries (this is the monthly process called ovulation - see our article on When and How Often Should I Have Sex? for the importance of timing sex around ovulation.) After the egg is released from an ovary, it travels to the fallopian tube and starts moving towards the uterus. During unprotected sexual intercourse, a man ejaculates sperm into the woman's vagina. The sperm then swims upstream into the fallopian tubes. If an egg is present in the fallopian tubes, a sperm may enter it and the egg then become fertilised (fertilisation is also referred to as 'conception'.) The fertilised egg then travels down the fallopian tubes, and into the uterus (womb.) As the fertilised egg is making its way to the uterus, it divides into more and more cells, becoming a ball of cells. For pregnancy to occur, the ball of cells needs to attach itself to the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium.) This process is called implantation, and normally happens 6 days after fertilisation. The ball of cells buries itself into the lining of the womb, which takes 3-4 days. Once this has happened, the embryo can develop.
Are there ways you can have unprotected sex without getting pregnant?
There are various myths circulating around regarding scenarios where you can have sex but avoid getting pregnant. Some people believe sex standing up avoids pregnancy, but sex in any position can result in pregnancy. Similarly, having sex in the water, having sex for the first time, and having sex during a woman's period can all result in pregnancy. A commonly held myth is that if you have sex in a hot tub, the heat kills the sperm, but this is untrue. Unprotected sexual intercourse, in any position, or in any environment, can result in pregnancy.
'Other' ways of getting pregnant?
There is a lot of misleading information out there regarding being able to get pregnant without having sex, such as through oral sex or touching. Oral sex cannot result in pregnancy, as sperm has to reach the cervix in order for a woman to become pregnant. If a man touches a woman's vagina after getting sperm on his fingers, there is a chance of pregnancy, but this is very low. Any scenario in which sperm meets the cervix can result in pregnancy, but it is rare for this to happen outside sexual intercourse.