October 17, 2007

Q&A: Risk Of Pregnancy Without Penetration

A reader asks about the risk of pregnancy during sexual activity without penetration.

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Question: My girlfriend has missed her period by about five weeks. Now, we have never had actual sex, just a form of dry sex. However, I am starting to get worried that she may be pregnant. We are both in separate colleges, and I am just so worried now. I mean, we haven’t had sex, but is there a possibility she is pregnant from me? If so, what should we do next?

It really depends on what you mean by having had ‘a form of dry sex’ Ejaculating inside a woman’s vagina is not the only way to get her pregnant – though it’s certainly the most common way that a pregnancy happens.

Though the risk of pregnancy would be lower, it is possible to get a woman pregnant if ejaculate gets on or near her vaginal entrance as your sperm can travel through her vaginal lubrication and make their way up inside the vagina, through the cervix and uterus and into the fallopian tubes where an egg may or may not be available to be fertilized by sperm.

So if your form of dry sex entailed briefly rubbing your genitals against each other without any pre-ejaculate or ejaculate coming out of your urethral opening (the hole at the tip of your penis where you pee and ejaculate from), then you could not have gotten her pregnant. It takes sperm (and an egg) for pregnancy to occur. But if your idea of dry sex included ejaculating anywhere near her vaginal opening, then there is a small chance of pregnancy.

Pregnancy Tests And Possible Reasons For Late Periods

At-home pregnancy tests are highly accurate when used correctly and you or she can purchase these at many drug stores, grocery stores and large retail chains such as Target or Walmart. In addition, family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood (plannedparenthood.org to find a clinic near her or you) and local heath department clinics often conduct pregnancy testing as well.

That said, women may be late getting their menstrual periods for a variety of reasons including stress, weight loss, or using forms of birth control that might cause her not to have a period every month (this happens with some brands of birth control pills and can also happen with the birth control shot, Depo Provera).

Your girlfriend should consider checking in with her healthcare provider to make sure that she is well.

Birth Control Options

Opposite sex couples who do not wish to become pregnant should either abstain from vaginal intercourse (or forms of dry sex that are pretty close to vaginal intercourse) or, if they choose to have vaginal intercourse or something similar, then they should take steps to prevent pregnancy.

These steps might include correct and consistent condom use, natural family planning methods (which, to be most effective, should be taught to you by a trained health educator, nurse or other healthcare provider), hormonal birth control such as the pill, patch, shot or vaginal ring (all of which are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly), or other forms of contraception that you might discuss with your or her healthcare provider.

You and your girlfriend might review the wide range of birth control options (see plannedparenthood.org) and talk with your healthcare providers to see what is right for you. You can also choose to be sexual with each other in ways that do not put you both at risk for a pregnancy or for sexually transmissible infections (STI).