Avoid Unwanted Pregnancy by Tracking Your Cycle's Safe Period

Nicole Day
By Nicole Day
Head and Shoulders Photo of Michelle Meyer
Edited by Michelle Meyer

Published August 2, 2022.

Calendar showing 31 days and a hand with a tampon

Each and every woman experiences periods for the majority of their lives. We all know this and understand the basic ins and outs, but what we may not all know is that there are certain days in our menstrual cycle where our fertility and the chance of falling pregnant are low. These are known as "safe days".

In order to know when these safe days are, it is important to track your menstrual cycle and log the various physical, emotional and hormonal changes you may be experiencing. There are many period tracker devices or methods that you can choose from.

How Soon After Your Period Can You Get Pregnant?

Ovulation typically occurs around day 14 of the menstrual cycle, when a mature egg is released into the fallopian tubes and awaits fertilization. This is considered the most fertile time in the cycle, and unprotected sex can result in pregnancy. Sperm can also survive for up to 7 days after sex, so if a couple has had unprotected sex during or immediately after a period, pregnancy can still occur. The chances of falling pregnant also majorly depends on the length (number of days) of your menstrual cycle and how long your period lasts.

If falling pregnant is your desired outcome, it's vitally important that you track your ovulation as this can increase your chances of conception and allow you to have sex within your most fertile window.

In contrast, if pregnancy is not your desired outcome, it's important to note that there are no guaranteed days in the menstrual cycle where it's completely safe to have unprotected sex.

How Long the Pregnancy "Safe Period" Lasts

"Safe period" refers to the days within the menstrual cycle when a woman has reduced chances of getting pregnant.

You can fall pregnant during the 5 or so days leading up to ovulation, and on the same day. However, pregnancy can still occur a day or two after ovulation if there is still sperm inside the uterus, but this is less likely.

Once the fertile window has passed, this leaves around 21 days in the menstrual cycle where pregnancy is less likely. The days before and during menstruation are the least fertile days of the menstrual cycle.

How to Track Your Period Cycle

There are multiple ways to track your period cycle. You can either opt for a period tracking app, or you can track your period manually using the calendar method. Both methods will work exactly the same, it's just a matter of personal preference.

You'll begin by monitoring your period for at least 6 cycles to ensure you have a good understanding of your cycle, its length, and regularity.

Either on your calendar or app, the first day of your period is day 1 of your cycle. Then next month, mark the first day of your next period. Count the number of days between each cycle (from day 1 of the first period to day 1 of the second period), and this will tell you the length of your cycle. Continue doing this for a few months. If all of your cycles are less than 27 days, then the manual calendar method may not be ideal for you. But don't despair! There are many different cycle tracking devices that do it for you.

Is It Safe to Have Sex Just After Your Period?

Falling pregnant just after your period is unlikely but not impossible. If you are having unprotected sex throughout your cycle, there is absolutely no given time where pregnancy may not occur. If pregnancy is not something you are currently aiming for, then it's advisable to use a method of birth control and understand how birth control will affect your menstrual cycle.

The fertile days may last for up to 3-5 days after the end of your period. If your period is long, you may only have a few days left after your period before your fertile days begin. If your menstrual cycle is short, then you may ovulate just days after your period ends. Due to sperm being able to survive 5-7 days, pregnancy can occur if you happen to ovulate a little early.

If you and your partner are actively trying to fall pregnant, it is best to time having sex during your fertile days and around ovulation. You can take an ovulation test to determine when you are ovulating and then make sure you are having unprotected sex during ovulation to maximize your chances of sperm meeting egg.

Periods and tracking apps are not a "one-size-fits-all," so it's important to put time and effort into understanding your own cycle, and knowing your future pregnancy or no-pregnancy plans.