How does a woman become pregnant?

As girls get older and mature into women their bodies start releasing eggs from their ovaries and they start having periods.

Once a girl starts having periods this is a sign that she is able to get pregnant, regardless of how old she is.

A woman can become pregnant if one of her eggs is fertilised by a man’s sperm when they have sex. Someone who thinks they might be pregnant would need to go to a clinic like Brook to find out what to do.

More information on pregnancy if you’re over 12:

What do periods have to do with pregnancy?

Every month your ovaries release an egg which travels to your womb via the fallopian tubes. At the same time hormones are released which thicken the lining of the womb for the egg to embed in if it gets fertilised.

If you have unprotected vaginal sex, millions of sperm swim to meet the egg when the man ejaculates. If the egg is fertilised by a sperm, this can lead to a pregnancy. If the egg does not get fertilised your body gets rid of it, along with the womb lining, and this process is called having a period.

What happens in the womb?

  • If an egg is fertilised it then travels down the fallopian tubes and enters the womb.
  • It then implants itself into the thickened lining of the womb, which enables it to get nutrients and grow.
  • If conception occurs it does not mean that the egg will definitely become a baby.
  • This is because not all fertilised eggs will implant in the womb and lead to a pregnancy.
  • A pregnancy lasts nine months.

What is sperm?

• As boys get older their bodies start to produce sperm.
• Sperm are produced in the testicles (balls) and are released out of the penis through ejaculation.
• To help carry the sperm to reach an egg they are released in a whiteish liquid called semen.
• Millions of sperm are released when a man ejaculates, but it only takes one sperm to fertilise an egg.

How can I make sure I don’t get pregnant?

  • If you use a condom, or other form of contraception, when you have penetrative vaginal sex the risk of getting pregnant is very small.
  • Condoms can also act as a barrier to stop you catching sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) during sex.
  • You can also become pregnant if a man has sex and does not ejaculate. This is because as soon as a man gets an erection, he produces a small amount of semen called precum which also contains sperm.
  • Once inside the vagina the sperm from precum could also go and meet an egg. Remember – it only takes one to fertilise the egg!

Safe times to have sex

  • There are times of the month when a woman is more likely to get pregnant. Unless you have been trained by a doctor, it is difficult to know when these times are. So the best way to protect yourself is to always use some kind of contraception if you don’t want to get pregnant.
  • Once an egg has been released it lives for around a day but sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for up to seven days. So it is possible it could still be around to fertilise any eggs released after you have had sex.

If you ever think you might be pregnant you can get more information about what to do at Brook.

Is it true that…..?

There are a lot of myths about the risks of getting pregnant:

  • Some people think you can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex.
  • Or if you have sex standing up.
  • Or if the boy pulls out before he ejaculates.
  • Or if you are on your period.

NONE of these are true! It is possible to get pregnant any time you have unprotected sex, even when there is no ejaculation.

What age can you get pregnant at?

Once a girl starts having periods she can get pregnant, regardless of her age.

You can get pregnant if sperm comes into contact with your vagina. You don’t have to have sex without a condom for this to happen.

We had unprotected sex, what can I do?

If you have had unprotected sex, or your contraception fails, you could get pregnant.

You can get emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy up to five days after having unprotected sex.

You can get emergency contraception from your GP, a pharmacy, a young person’s clinic or a Brook clinic.

What are the signs of pregnancy?

For many women the first sign that they are pregnant is a missed period.

However, if you have irregular periods it may be difficult to tell.

Women can miss periods for other reasons, such as stress or weight changes.

Other signs of pregnancy may be feeling sick, a ‘metallic’ taste in your mouth, sore breasts, feeling tired and an increased amount of vaginal discharge.

How can I find out if I’m pregnant or not?

If you think you are pregnant it is important to take a pregnancy test to find out for sure as soon as possible because the sooner you find out, the more options you will have.

You can get a free pregnancy test at GP surgeries, family planning clinics and young person’s clinics like Brook.

Alternatively you can buy home pregnancy test kits from a chemist.

You can take a pregnancy test the day after your period should have started, or if your periods are irregular, three weeks after you had unprotected sex.

My pregnancy test is positive – what should I do?

If you have had a positive pregnancy test result you might be unsure of what to do next, especially if the pregnancy was not planned.

You might want to take some time to look at your options.

You could decide to have the baby yourself, give it up for adoption, or have an abortion.

It might help to talk things through with a friend, family member or helpline advisor

No matter what you decide to do, it is important to see a doctor. If you are continuing with the pregnancy this is so you can arrange antenatal care, which is important both for your and your baby’s health. If you decide to have an abortion, it is better to get things in motion as soon as possible.

Who can I get support from?

Being pregnant can be a very exciting but scary time, and you may have lots of questions and concerns.

Having the support of your partner, family and friends can be helpful.

There are professionals such as doctors, midwives, and counsellors who can answer questions and give you the space to talk about concerns.

Will it be hard to be a teenage parent?

Becoming a parent is a big decision and will bring lots of changes to your life.

One of the biggest things is working out where you are going to live and how you are going to support yourself and your child.

There are some advantages to being a young mum or dad but there are disadvantages too, such as possible interruption to your education and having a lot of responsibility when your peers are gaining more freedom.

Other people might treat you differently or be unkind because you are a young parent, but it is important to remember that there is a lot of support and help for young parents and their families.

Sexual health quiz

We have designed a quiz to help you understand a little bit more about sex and how to do it safely.

If you have a question or you are unsure about anything then ask a Talksafe Counsellor or Peer Mentor.

Do you feel better informed on the issues that concern you after reading this information?

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Brook: Pregnancy
British Pregnancy Advisory Service: Young People
NHS: Am I pregnant?

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Last review: 29/09/14 – Next review: 29/09/17