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Determining your Risk of Pregnancy
At the time of exposure to sperm.


For Women who have irregular cycles; are unable to identify ovulation;
or who do not know when the first day of their last menstrual period was.

Women with irregular/unpredictable cycles, or who are unable to determine when they were fertile, and those who don't keep track of the first day of menstruation will need to handle their situation differently than someone who ovulates regularly and predictably; it may be better to error on the side of caution than to risk an unintended pregnancy.

If you know more or less when your period is suppose to start you can try to figure out when your range of fertility might be, but if your cycle is prone to being unpredictable, the best you would be making is a guess. If you'd like to give it a try review the section on regular menstrual cycles. If it doesn't help, you can always click on the back button to get back here, or follow links for irregular cycles to return here.

If the fertile time is not able to be defined, it may be better to take precautions rather than wait-and-see what happens.

The main factor here is how long ago were you exposed to sperm, this is what will determine what your options are. This section has been written for those who have been exposed to semen less than 2 or 3 weeks ago. If exposure occurred two weeks ago, please follow this link.

Their are two main parts to the plan here, first taking precaution to prevent implantation if there is still time for emergency contraceptives to be effective. Second you'll need to determine where you are in your cycle. If emergency contraceptives are used, this aspect is optional, but well worth doing for many reasons.

We'll use a fertility awareness method that charts the body's resting temperatures, often referred to as the BBT method, by recording your waking temperatures we hope to determine whether or not ovulation has occurred. BBT doesn't give any warning of approaching ovulation but will confirm when it is all done. This fertility awareness method is meant to be used every day throughout the cycle, but if you start recording your temps as soon as possible (preferably tomorrow morning!!) you should be able to get a pretty good idea of the status of your cycle after a weeks worth of charting. The sooner this method is employed following exposure to semen the better, providing the most useful information. The more time that passes the less helpful your temperatures may be, but either way using this method to determine if you are pre- or post- ovulation will be worth the daily 2 minute commitment, especially if ovulation has not occurred yet.

What you will need:

  • digital thermometer
  • paper
  • pen
  • alarm clock

For this method to be reliable and the information correct, the method must be used correctly. BBT = Basal Body Temperature - this is the body's resting temperature. To be accurate the temperature must be recorded at the same time each morning; temperatures must be recorded before doing anything. When the alarm rings, roll over and turn it off, and stick the thermometer in your mouth, in the same spot under your tongue, and leave it there until it beeps. Don't get out of bed, don't drink anything, don't talk, don't do anything until you've taken your temperature. Record it. Do this for a week, every morning at the same time.

Practice with your thermometer before going to bed the first night so that you know how to operate it. Remember, you are going to be waking up and having to do this, so it will pay to run through it a couple times before trying to do it from a dead sleep.

Its very important to record your temps before doing anything, if you forget and get up to go to the bathroom before taking your temp, activity will cause temps to rise and will be inaccurate giving misleading information.

Time is of the essence so try to record your temperature tomorrow morning, and every morning for a minimum of a week. If you record your temps for the rest of your cycle or the next 25 days (whichever comes first) this method can identify pregnancy by certain characteristic temperature changes, most women who have conceived will experience.

I created a page explaining in more detail what to do, how the BBT method can be used in a crisis situation, what the temps mean, how to tell if ovulation has occurred yet, etc. Using BBT to help determine your risk of pregnancy {Don't forget to finish reading this section} If anyone needs help interpreting their first week of temperatures, I'd be happy to help.

Charting the BBT takes time, and if you were exposed to sperm less than 7 days ago, there are emergency contraceptive options available that can be used to reduce the risk of becoming pregnant by preventing implantation.

Women who have long cycles are likely to have been non-fertile, but there is always a chance, often when we are most likely to throw caution to the wind and not use that condom, its estrogen that is over-riding common scene!! (Estrogen peaks just before ovulation and tends to make us feel more sensual and sexy.

I try to encourage women to listen to their intuition, but in our busy society many of us are not in the habit of tuning in to that inner voice. When dealing with the fear of becoming pregnant often we approach the situation with a club when a glass of lemonade might be more appropriate. I think we all have faced the fear of becoming pregnant. The last time I faced this fear I had unprotected sex on Day 17 of my cycle, for me, ovulation would normally have just finished, but my cycles have been known to have a slight variation, so usually I don't have unprotected sex until Day 19 mostly for my own peace of mind. (By the way, I'm in a monogamous relationship, so before you put yourself at risk for viruses and stds, think long and hard about what you are putting at risk, viruses have no cure) So the last time I had unprotected sex on Day 17 of my cycle, I got pretty nervous about it, I figured I'd be ok, but that fear is a powerful factor to deal with, so I used queen anne's lace seeds for six days. After the second day, my intuition was telling me everything would be fine, but I had made a decision to follow through with the six days anyway mostly for personal experimentation for benefit of the website, but felt pretty confident by the second day of the qal that everything was fine, but part of that was still based in the fear of pregnancy. When you don't want to be pregnant, that fear is a major force to contend with.

So the point being, that if your intuition tells you that you don't need to do whatever it is you are doing, listen. You can still chart your BBT, and it is likely to give an indication when implantation occurs, and for sure if temps stay high for 18 days in a row. There is more information about interpreting the BBT readings on the BBT page.

If the first three days of temperature readings indicate that ovulation has already passed and you started recording your temps the day after unprotected sex. It would be safe to say that you missed your fertile time, by how much it wouldn't be possible to say, but you shouldn't have to worry, you should continue to record temps for a minimum of a week and if temps continue to stay in the high range, whether or not you continue to chart for the rest of the cycle is up to you.

If temps are low or inconclusive, take precautions and continue recording your temperatures for a total of 10 days minimum. If temps don't rise and stay elevated during that time, it means that ovulation has not yet occurred, all the sperm are dead and there's no chance for pregnancy to occur from that particular exposure. Just protect yourself during future sexual encounters and everything will be fine.


Precautionary options would include:

  • wait-and-see approach, this can be handled a couple of ways.
  • Emergency contraceptive pills - if exposure occurred less than 72 hours ago.

  • Queen Anne's lace seeds - if available, can be somewhat difficult to obtain. Best started as soon as possible, and should be effective 5 or 6 days after being exposure to sperm. It is possible that the seeds would also be effective up to 10 days later, but this would depend on when ovulation occurs in relation to when exposure occurred. If for example, sperm entered the uterus 6 days before ovulation occurred and survived to fertilize an egg. Implantation would occur 6 days after ovulation. If given a few days to take effect before implantation occurs it still may be effective 9 or 10 days after intercourse.

    The seeds are in my opinion are probably the best choice as far as home remedies go. They are somewhat difficult to obtain, and it is useful to have them on hand before the need arises. There is no data on which is more effective when comparing emergency contraceptive pills to queen anne's lace seeds.... probably the pills are more effective, but at this time there is no way to know for certain, either have a chance of failure. The advantage of the qal seeds is if the 72 hour window is missed for emergency contraceptives, the seeds provide another opportunity to prevent implantation from occurring.

  • Vitamin C - is pretty versatile. It can be used as an emergency contraceptive to inhibit implantation. If implantation has already occurred it can be used to inhibit progesterone which is essential for the continuation of pregnancy. When pregnancy is confirmed it can be used as an abortifacient.

  • Chinese Herbalists also have herbal prescriptions they can make for an individual that can prevent pregnancy. They may be more effective because they are prepared specifically for you based on your unique physiology. Look for an oriental herbalist in your area.



Wait-and-See Approach
For women with irregular cycles, the wait & see approach does not mean doing nothing. In the next 10 days after exposure to sperm go and acquire the earliest pregnancy tests you can find. If at all possible find the tests that can detect pregnancy as soon as 10 days after ovulation (if you can't find these, then get the earliest detection test you can find and adjust the timing of the tests to coincide with the first day of accuracy for that particular test). For best results you should use a series of them (to avoid the possibility of a false negative), I would suggest 3. The first taken 12 days (or adjusted for the type of test on hand) after exposure to semen/sperm. The second test taken two days after the first and the 3rd test taken one week after the 2nd test. If all three of these tests are negative then you are in the clear. If any of them come back
positive, what you can do.
Return to the options list.


If you were exposed to semen two weeks ago or more an early detection test may give an accurate reading at 14 to 16 days after intercourse. But because sperm can survive for up to 7 days it is possible that ovulation occurred a bit later and it would be a little too early for the test to be accurate, so retesting 5 to 7 days later is advisable if the first test is negative. While you are waiting to take the second test you can chart your BBT to see if ovulation has occurred. I've included additional information at the top of this page if you want to scroll up and detailed instructions on this page.

If both tests are negative, then you should be in the clear. If you experience any weird symptoms though, you might want to visit your Dr to get tested just to make sure, or take a third pregnancy test a few days after the second just to make sure.

If the test is positive, the next step is to find out how far along the pregnancy is, this is very important because again, if you plan on using home remedies to try and terminate the pregnancy at home, it really helps to know how far along the pregnancy is so that you can choose the best options for your situation.

If you know the date of fertilizing intercourse, then you can figure it within a week, because the sperm can only live for up to a week. So count the weeks since the time you had sex, take that number and subtract one week -- the pregnancy would be in one of those two weeks.

For women who don't know the date of fertilizing intercourse, you will need help to determine how far along the pregnancy is. A gynecologist, your doctor, or planned parenthood can all do a manual pelvic exam and tell you about how many weeks pregnant you are, if they are any good. If you can afford it or have insurance have them do a sonogram or ultrasound.

Once you know how far along the pregnancy is you can decide what your best options are from there.




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This page was created in 2000, and last updated June 19, 2001


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