How To Know When Pregnancy Can Be Achieved Or Avoided.

Should I be worried I or my partner will get pregnant or not after a coital experience?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema at unsplash.com

Pregnancy(conception) is a good thing that brings enormous joy to a couple and their relatives or it may be a cause of panic, emotional or mental stress, fear and anger leading to unpleasurable and condemnable acts; depending on the prevailing circumstances.

Also infertility(inability to achieve or sustain conception/pregnancy after atleast 1 year of regular unprotected penetrative and ejaculatory vaginal intercourse with an adult of opposite sex) is a worldwide problem affecting about 5–20% of couples; though there are myriads of possible causes(not the scope of this article); in about 3 to 6% of couples, the causes are not known. Therefore, as trivial as it may seem, knowing when to have sexual intercourse when pregnancy is desired comes in handy for such couples.

Furthermore, when pregnancy is not desired especially among sexually active males and females of reproductive age in middle schools, high schools and colleges and also among couples for the purpose of child spacing or limiting the family size, several methods or options are available to select from based on several factors that must be considered, such options includes;

  • Barrier methods such as male and female condoms.
  • Hormonal methods such as oral contraceptive pills, injectables, implants, vaginal rings, transdermal patches.
  • Intrauterine devices(IUCDs).
  • Permanent methods such as vasectomy, bilateral tubal ligation.
  • Coitus interruptus; a fancy way of saying ‘pull-out’ or withdrawal method.
  • Natural methods such as lactational amenorrhea(LAM), rhythm method, basal body temperature method, standard days method(SDM).

Barrier method(male condom) appears to be the most widely accepted and utilized of such methods among young sexually active individuals probably because it is cheap, readily available, cost-effective and has a better adverse effect profile. However, coital dependency, significant failure rate, reactions to the product and most importantly, the significantly reduced pleasure during intercourse has negatively affected its utilization among this group. Also a ‘quickee’ will not afford you the time to start wearing a condom.

‘Pull-out’ method is an old method of contraception and seemingly a better alternative to barrier method because it eliminates the decreased sensitivity/contact and reduced pleasure associated with barrier methods, though a significant amount of reduced sexual pleasure is still present because of withdrawal at the peak of orgasm. However, a high failure rate amongst others has made it an infamous method in conventional medicine despite it still being widely practiced among sexually active individuals because of conveniency.

It is not a safe method because despite the ‘pulling out’ when about to ejaculate, pre-ejaculate(pre-cum) as well as semen leakage which are relatively passive phenomena(that is the guy doesn’t know when it leaks into the female vagina) also contains appreciable amount of sperm cells which can lead to pregnancy.

The standard days method also known as the ‘fertility awareness method’ which is the focus of this article is a better alternative than the above two methods because it eliminates the reduced sexual pleasure associated with both condom use and pulling out method. It also has the added advantage of how to know when to have sexual intercourse when pregnancy is desired.

The concept of ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ period comes into play here.

  • A normal reproductive age woman has a menstrual cycle of 21–35days; about 50 to 60% has a 28days cycle(to know yours, try and find the shortest cycle in your past periods).
  • In a 28 days cycle, the first day(day 1) is the day your menses starts in that particular month(for example 1st of February), on day 14(that is 14th of February), she is expected to ovulate and on day 28(that is 28 of February), she is expected to start her next menses if her cycle is regular and no ‘pregnancy-worthy’ act has been committed.
  • Day 14 is the day of ovulation; that is when she releases egg from her ovaries and the egg goes into fallopian tube waiting to be fertilized by a ‘viable’ sperm.
  • It is generally believed that some sperm cells can last for up to 3 to 4days while the eggs(oocytes) can last for 1 to 2days before undergoing disintegration.
  • Therefore, ‘safe period’ is that period where ‘it is technically not possible for fertilization/interaction to occur between viable sperm cell(s) and viable egg cell(s). These are days of the cycle other than 4days before and 4days after day 14(that is February 1 to 10th and February 18 to 28)
  • Therefore ‘unsafe period’ is the period where fertilization of a viable egg by a viable sperm cell can occur leading to pregnancy, this includes day10 to day18 of a regular cycle.
  • For women who knows when they are ovulating(that is on day 14, they will surely start menstruating on day 28 because this is relatively constant.
  • In summary;
  • Safe periods or safe days in a cycle permits for unprotected sexual intercourse(as regards pregnancy alone) especially when cycle is regular. Nomatter how much sperm is ejaculated, fertilization is unlikely to occur.
  • Unsafe periods however requires abstinence or use of a contraceptive method usually condoms if pregnancy is not desired. When pregnancy is desired, ejaculatory sexual intercourse especially early hours of the day between 5:00am and 7:30am is recommended(though anytime of the day will do).
  • The drawback of this method is the irregularity in menstrual cycle which occurs in a large percentage of reproductive age women affects the result and reduces the predictive value of this method.
  • Also in medicine, there is a common saying that ‘never say never’.

Note

The February 1 to 28 used in this article is only meant for illustration.

Thanks for reading

Writer|Medical Doctor