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Survey: Usefulness of Determining Your Risk of Pregnancy Pages

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

This page will help you determine your risk of pregnancy at the time of exposure to sperm, once the risk of pregnancy is determined, you can make decisions based more in fact than on fears of being pregnant. After you figure out your risk of pregnancy at the time of exposure you will be directed to information that will be most helpful to your situation. If you've already had a positive test, this page can be used to help you figure out how far along the pregnancy is if your cycles are fairly regular; women with irregular cycles, will need a doctors assistance to accurately determine the week of pregnancy if date of fertilizing intercourse is not known.

Emergency contraception is for emergency situations and should not be used as a regular form of contraception, this goes for both home remedies and modern medical options. It is better to prevent exposure to sperm than it is to try to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Regular methods of birth control are a more effective at preventing pregnancy than emergency contraceptives are.

Emergency contraception is used right after unprotected, potentially fertilizing sex. The sooner it is used the better. There are several options to choose from, each having it's window of effectiveness. It is important to find out when they should be used and how best to use them - as well as correct dosages. More is NOT better. When used with skill and knowledge these remedies can be effective* at preventing unwanted pregnancy.
{(*) There is always the chance that it will not work}

I want to stress, emergency contraceptives should not be used needlessly or frequently.
Prevention is the key.

How do you know if you NEED to use an emergency contraceptive to prevent pregnancy? Hopefully this page will address this in a satisfactory way. First you need to determine as best you can your risk of pregnancy at the time of exposure to sperm. I will go into detail below on how to do this step by step.

If the actual risk of pregnancy is low at the time of exposure to sperm, personally I feel that a wait-and-see approach is the wisest course of action. If the risk of pregnancy is moderate or high then steps can be taken to thwart pregnancy. No method is guaranteed to work, including modern methods offered by the medical establishment. Which is why prevention is the way to go, but when the unexpected happens there are options to fall back on.

These home/folk remedies have the element of the unknown. They are not widely used or researched. If you choose to use them, you are experimenting on yourself, and the unknown is bound to happen for someone.

Before going any further, I want to go over a few bits of information that you should be aware of as we progress deeper into this page.

  • When referring to counting the cycle, I start with the first day of menstruation as Day 1 and count forward from there. I also always use a capital "D" when referring to the days of the cycle. You will see more of this when we get into the examples.

  • In non-fertile conditions sperm can survive for 3 to 7 hours depending on individual body chemistry, during non-fertile times the cervix is closed and sperm cannot enter. As ovulation approaches body chemistry changes and the cervix opens and fertile fluids (mucus) flow from the cervix, enabling sperm to survive more easily in the vagina and allows them to enter the cervix and uterus -- once out of the vagina they can survive for 3 to 5 days, but sperm have been known to survive for up to 7 days, so if they are healthy and conditions are just right, there's a good chance they can live for up to a week once inside the uterus and wait around for the egg to be released.

  • A woman's egg or ovum is viable (meaning it can be fertilized) for up to 24 hours, although some sources say it is up to 36 hours. After this time, the egg begins to deteriorate and no longer can be fertilized.

  • Because sperm can live for up to 5-7 days it is important to keep sperm out of the vagina and away from the outside of the vagina before ovulation occurs. This means the most dangerous time to have unprotected sex (assuming you don't want to get pregnant) is before or during ovulation. The hard part is figuring out when ovulation is going to happen. The day of the cycle the egg is actually released can vary from cycle to cycle, and can be influenced by external factors in our life such as stress, illness, weight fluctuations, lifestyle changes and excessive worry about being pregnant.

  • Menstruation occurs 14 days (2 weeks) after ovulation. These 14 days are called the "luteal phase" and is pretty consistent between all women. What varies from cycle to cycle and woman to woman is the "follicular phase" of the cycle, the time between menstruation and ovulation. The vast majority of women menstruate 14 days after ovulation.

  • Please keep in mind if for some reason your body decides not to ovulate in the "normal" time frame for you -- unless you are able to recognize the signals of fertility you are at risk for pregnancy anytime during the cycle. If ovulation occurs later than normal, menstruation will arrive later than usual. It is also worth mentioning using emmenagogues or abortifacient herbs when you are fertile or ovulating will not be able to start bleeding until the cycle has run its full course, the endometrium (uterine lining) needs a chance to build up during the luteal phase before bleeding will be able to occur.

    Our bodies do not always behave as we expect them to or wish they would.

Useful Tools for Helping to Figure the Situation out

Pregnancy Tests as Tools of Empowerment. Today, we have early detection pregnancy tests on our side, there are ones available that can detect pregnancy as soon as 10 days after ovulation - which means 4 days before menstruation is due. We can use these tests as tools, enabling us to catch pregnancy in its earliest stages and allows us to avoid using these remedies unless there is a real threat of pregnancy. I think it is important to take advantage of these early detection tests.

Basal Body Temperature {BBT} is the bodies resting/waking temperature. For women, because of the hormones in our bodies at different times of our cycle, we can use a basal thermometer or digital thermometer as a tool to help identify the passage of ovulation. Women chart their BBT on a daily basis to do this. I believe in an emergency situation when a woman is not sure if ovulation has yet occurred, the BBT may yield some clues and help her to determine where she is in her cycle. Because the whole cycle has not been charted, there will be limitations. But for some women I think it can help to determine whether ovulation has occurred yet. There is a marked temperature difference between pre- and post- ovulation. After ovulation occurs, progesterone is the dominate hormone, and causes your body temperature to increase somewhat, this increase is measured in 10ths of a degree, so a regular fever thermometer will not work, it must be digital or a basal thermometer. Time is of the essence, try to get a digital thermometer today if you don't have one. Walmart sells them, so does just about any drug store. You'll need to use it first thing in the morning before getting out of bed, BEFORE doing ANYTHING. This is very important for an accurate reading. Follow this link for more information on how to use your basal body temperature to help determine your risk of pregnancy.

Note: A few words about the layout of this web page. I've done something a little different with this one, its a little more interactive than the rest. The way it's designed gives you the opportunity to respond to questions or choose which description best suits you and your situation. Then you will jump to the section specific to your response. This page is closely linked with 3 others (they started as one, but grew too large!!). I hope that this format will make it easier find the information you need and apply it to your specific situation.

There are also links which take you off this page for more specific information regarding particular topics, so make sure you finish reading through your section to the end, then go back and check out the other pages, or if you do check them out before you finish with this page, be sure to come back and finish reading. There is one or two links that lead you off this page to give specific information then there's a link at the end of those particular sections that will lead you back to where you left off on this page.

Once you have determined your risk your risk of pregnancy at the time of exposure to semen, this webpage will direct you to another page on my website set up to work hand and hand with this page. By responding to the questions and following the links you will be led to information that will let you know what your best options are for whatever your situation may be. Both pages are designed to be interactive, and not all the info on either page will apply to you.

When you have finished with these pages in the determining your risk of pregnancy section of the site, If you would be so kind as to fill out a quick survey to give me some feedback on the usefulness of Determining Your Risk of Pregnancy Pages I would greatly appreciate it. I will add smaller survey links in more convienient spots.

  • Another thing to keep in mind - each time you are exposed to sperm you are also exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. And thus you should make a trip to your local clinic to get checked out. Even if you both are virgins. Some diseases can be acquired in ways other than sex, then passed on by having unprotected sex, and an individual can be a carrier of the disease and not know it. The only way to really protect yourself is always use condoms.

    I'd like to take a moment to raise awareness about human papilloma virus (HPV), a genital wart virus, it is very common in the sexually active population. It is also very difficult to detect. There are no tests to detect it in men, so unless they get a wart, or a previous lover told him she had it, chances are he will not know if he carries it. This virus causes special problems for women, it increases our risk of getting cervical cancer. Even if it never becomes cancer, it can cause havoc with our pap smears, and cause us to undergo painful, invasive treatments to remove abnormal cells it causes on our cervixes. Because it doesn't seem to be such a big deal for men, it seems like, there has been a serious lack of information and education about this virus, I also strongly feel that the attitude in the medical community is that because it is so "treatable" and they have us trained to come in annually for pap smears that they don't emphasize the serious nature of this virus, and are partially responsible for its prevalence in the sexually active population. It is a serious problem in our society, many people, men and women both can carry the virus and not know it. For those who it does cause problems for (and there are many) it can be pretty serious. So protect yourselves by using condoms all the time, and get regular pap smears. {A good question for any new lover..."Has any previous lovers had an abnormal pap smear?"}

  • If you have had sex in the last 72 hours, you can use emergency contraception, follow the link for more information on the types of pills and dosages, then come back to this page to finish determining your risk of pregnancy.
  • If you have just been exposed to semen (within a couple of hours ago) What you can do right now!!.

    Determining your risk of pregnancy - Regular & Irregular Cycles

    This is where we are going to start jumping around a bit. First, we will decide which description describes your cycles - regular or irregular.

    With the help of this web page we will attempt to determine when ovulation was most likely to occur, figure out your fertile days for this cycle, then see where the sperm exposure falls within all this, and use this information to determine your risk of pregnancy, and what course of action is most appropriate for your situation.

    Determining your risk is complex, first you have to take into consideration exposure in relation to ovulation; then the amount of time that has passed since being exposed to sperm -- this will determine what options are appropriate and which have the best chance of working.

    The goal of this webpage is to help you determine with some degree of accuracy your risk of pregnancy and to guide you to useful information in your moment of crisis.

    Women who have regular cycles and keep track of at least the first day of menstruation should be able to determine without too much trouble their risk of pregnancy. Women who have irregular cycles or don't keep track of their cycles have different challenges when it comes to figuring out when the fertile time might be, for some women, it may be impossible to determine when ovulation was most likely to occur. When ovulation cannot be determine with some degree of accuracy then the situation is handled differently than for someone who has been able to determine their risk of pregnancy, based on a regular predictable cycle. So this page is broken down into how to handle an exposure to semen/sperm and/or pre-cum (which can also contain sperm) for women with irregular cycles and regular cycles.

    See if you can figure it out.

    Note: the word cycle refers to the entire cycle, NOT the length of menstruation.

    Please read through the following 3 options and choose the one that best suits you. Base your choice on your recent history, the past 6 to 12 months/cycles.

  • Are your cycles regular? Do you know how long they usually are? Varying no more than 3 to 5 days? An occasional fluke of a long or short cycle is acceptable, but should not occur often. If your cycle fits this description then click here.

  • Are your cycles irregular? More than 5 days variation, and can vary widely and wildly. Are you never quite certain when your period will come? If your monthly cycle fits this description then click here.

  • If you don't know the exact date of the first day of your last menstrual period. click here.

    For Women who menstruate regularly and predictably

    Do you know when the first day of your last menstrual cycle was? exactly? If so then pull out your calendar, because you'll need it before we are finished.

    Do you know how long your menstrual/fertility cycles usually run based on your last 6 to 12 cycles? 27 days? 30 days? More? Less? Does it vary slightly?

    If you answered yes to the first question and know about how long your average cycles are then you off to a good start and should be able to figure out more or less when you should be fertile. What we are making here is an educated guess. Mother Nature can decide our bodies will do something totally unexpected, but this is definitely information worth working with. With this information you should be able to figure out with some degree of accuracy your risk of pregnancy at the time of exposure to sperm.

    Do you use fertility awareness methods to identify ovulation? Did it confirm the passage of fertility this cycle? If yes, and you are confident you know your range of fertility taking into account the life of sperm and the ovum, and can determine your risk of pregnancy yourself, then you can skip this section, unless you want to double check your information.

      Lets use an example to help show the range of fertility someone with a regular cycle might have. Just to refresh your memory - when counting the menstrual/fertility cycle - the first day of the menstrual period is Day 1.

      In this example, our subject has been charting her cycle by marking the first day of bleeding each cycle for many years and counting the days in between. But she does not know how to identify fertility or ovulation. From this information she knows the shortest cycle she has ever had was 25 days long and her longest cycle on record is 32 days. These long and short cycles do not occur often and are not the norm for her. Her period normally starts between Day 27 and Day 29. When determining her range of fertility she will take all this information into consideration, helping her to identify when she may be fertile. Once she knows when she may be fertile she can gauge her risk of pregnancy.

      Pull out your calendar, if you can make a copy of it even better, then you can write on it as we go.

      Now she will use the information she has collected over the years to make an educated guess which will be based upon her personal history. She knows the first day of her last period was March 1st. To figure her range of fertility she would use a calendar. Starting with Day 1 (the first day of her period, March 1st) she would count forward 25 days (her shortest cycle on record); which is March 25th - now she would count back 14 days (the fourteen days between ovulation and menstruation). This would be March 12th. Based on her past history (from charting her cycles) this would be the earliest she might ovulate, but because she rarely menstruates as early as Day 25, chances are she would not ovulate this early, but it is possible and should be taken into consideration.

      After determining the earliest possible date for ovulation this cycle (March 12), she would need to take into account the life-span of the sperm, which would be no more than 7 days and could be less. She would count back 7 more days would put her at March 5th. This means that any unprotected sex after March 4th would put her at risk for pregnancy but the risk would be low because she does not usually ovulate this early.

      Normally her average short cycle is 27 days. So using the same method as above she can determine that any unprotected sex on or after March 9th would put her at high risk for pregnancy. {March 9th is arrived at by starting with March 1 as Day 1; counting forward 27 days - March 27th; then counting back 14 days (March 14); then counting back 7 more days to protect from sperm - making it March 9th.}

      Now to determine the upper range of her fertile time for any given cycle we would use both the 29 day norm for her as well as the 32 day record for longest cycle. To determine her most fertile time, from the 29th Day of her cycle which in this example would be March 29th she would count back 14 days making it March 16th, now add two days to that, the length of life for the ovum (it can be fertilized for 24-36 hours after being released from the ovary) Making it March 18th. So her most fertile time is between March 9th through March 18th. Any exposure to sperm at this time is likely to result in pregnancy, assuming she ovulates on schedule.

      And finally figuring the outer range of her fertility for a given cycle would be to take the 32 Day record for her longest cycle. Starting with Day 1 (March 1st) counting forward 32 days making it April 1st; counting back 14 days = March 19th. This should be the latest ovulation might occur. Again, for her to ovulate this late would be unusual for her, but not impossible. Adding two days to March 19th makes it March 21st giving the egg time to expire. This is the latest she would be fertile, again, this is assuming she doesn't set a new record for late ovulation this cycle. There is always the element of the unknown.

      Now she has determined her personal range of fertility for any given cycle as long as her earliest and latest records do not change. Her most fertile time is between Day 9 (March 9th) and Day 18 (March 18th) of her cycle, any unprotected sex during this time is likely to result in pregnancy and would be considered moderate to high risk. Because not all sperm can live for 7 days - if unprotected sex occurred on the 9th or 10th Day of her cycle, her risks of pregnancy would be slightly less than if the exposure to semen occurred closer to ovulation.

      From Day 5 (March 5th) to Day 8 (March 8th), she may be fertile, but probably is not. And from Day 19 (March 19th) to Day 21 (March 21) she may be fertile, but probably is not. So her risk for pregnancy during the dates of March 5th-8th and March 19-21 is low to moderate. Any exposure to sperm occurring between March 9th thru March 18th carries a much higher risk of pregnancy. And finally, any exposure to sperm before March 5th is not likely to result in pregnancy. And any exposure to sperm after March 21st is unlikely to result in pregnancy since ovulation should be finished and she should be non-fertile for the remainder of the cycle. These would be low risk times, and a wait-and-see approach is appropriate.

  • Now you can modify this example to suit you. Even if you have not charted your cycle for very long, or if you know that your cycles are around 30 days and have not kept track of any variations. (30 days is just a number, it doesn't matter how long your cycles are as long as they are consistent in length) You can still use this to determine your range of fertility. When you figure it out (doing your counting on the calendar) you can add a couple days to both ends and consider those extra days as moderately fertile. And use that information to base decisions on.

    Looking at your calendar or chart, mark the date of exposure to sperm, where does it fall in relation to ovulation and your fertile days? Are you able to determine your exposure risk? If not, review the above example with your calander in hand and modify the info to fit your personal cycle. If you are not able to identify when you were fertile, then follow the link.

  • If exposure to sperm occurred within a day or two, it is possible to use a fertility awareness method to help pinpoint ovulation, rarely is it possible to determine the moment of ovulation, but by charting your basal body temperatures (bbt) you may be able to tell if ovulation has already occurred; or identify it's passage. To be useful it has to be started as close to sperm exposure as possible. All that is needed is a digital thermometer, pen, paper and an alarm clock. It will need to be charted for several days to observe the patterns. If you choose to chart your BBT until menstruation begins, if you conceive the temperature patterns can identify pregnancy as the time for your expected period nears. I have created a page to help you use this modified method in a crisis situation, you'll find instructions here. Using BBT Method to help identify risk of pregnancy. {Be sure to finish reading this section!}

    If there is concern about pregnancy occurring a series of pregnancy tests can be used. If the earliest detection tests are found, depending on how concerned you are about detecting the pregnancy as early as possible, the first test could be used as early as 10 days after ovulation. Using a test this early, especially if it is not made to detect pregnancy 10 days after ovulation, does open the possibility for a false negative, so another test should be used 2 or 3 days later. If urine from the first pee of the day is used it can increase accuracy of the test. If the test days for use when menstruation is due, then wait until 12 or 13 days after ovulation so you aren't wasting your money. If both tests are negative, and if menstruation has not arrived in 5 to 7 days after the 2nd test was taken, take another one. If all three tests are negative, and no other unprotected sex occurred during that cycle, chances are they are correct. Planned Parenthood also has early detection tests, and blood tests are the most sensitive tests available but have to be done by a clinic or doctor.

    Determining your Risk of Pregnancy
    After identifying your fertile time, look at the date of the exposure to sperm - what Day of your cycle did it fall on? Now you should have a pretty good idea of your risk of pregnancy from this exposure. If you are not able to identify when you were fertile, then follow the link.

      If exposure to sperm occurred during:

    • a non-fertile time nothing needs to be done, unless concerned about sexually transmitted diseases or viruses, then a trip to planned parenthood might be in order.
    • if there is a low risk of pregnancy - you don't need to do anything just yet. Acquire two early detection pregnancy tests and just a wait and see approach coupled with early detection tests to pick up on a pregnancy as early as possible.
    • For moderate risk of pregnancy - you can follow steps lined out for dealing with either low risk or high risk exposure depending on where in your cycle the exposure occurred and how you feel about the situation. Try not to let the fear of pregnancy influence your decisions.

    • For exposures to sperm resulting in a high risk of pregnancy,
      choose the option that most appropriate for your current situation.

      If you've made it this far in this section then that means that you were able to determine when ovulation was likely to occur and you determined your range of fertility for this cycle. You should have a pretty good idea when fertilization occurred/will occur. Implantation occurs 6 days after ovulation, so now you should have a pretty good idea of when implantation is likely to occur. If implantation has not occurred then emergency contraceptives are most appropriate, they can be pharmaceutical or herbal, but once implantation occurs emergency contraceptives won't be effective unless the pregnancy is not viable anyway, in which case the body would probably eventually expel the egg anyway.

      This site Copyright 1998 - 2010 by Sister Zeus

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

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