Q: What are the symptoms of pregnancy?

A: The most common symptom of pregnancy is a missed period. While symptoms like sore breasts, nausea, and fatigue are common, these can mean other things like a flu-like virus or hormonal changes.

To be sure if you’re pregnant, you must take a test. These are available for less than $10 at any drugstore – you do not have to go to a doctor for a pregnancy test. Once you’ve missed a period, these tests have a very high rate of accuracy.

For more information:

Q: I did ________. Could I be pregnant?

A: A pregnancy cannot occur unless sperm meets egg, so a woman cannot become pregnant from kissing, oral sex, mutual masturbation, or sharing a hot tub. It is possible for a woman to become pregnant if the man pulls out of her vagina before he comes, but it is much less likely than if he comes inside of her. Also, remember that sperm die quickly when exposed to the air, so they do not live long after being ejaculated unless they are inside a vagina. It is almost impossible for a woman to become pregnant from a man ejaculating on her clothing or near her underwater. Most accidental pregnancies happen when someone does not use birth control, forgets to use it or uses it incorrectly, or when the man intends to pull out but doesn’t quite make it. For more information on different types of birth control and their effectiveness please refer to Planned Parenthood .

For more information…

The following books may be useful:

  • Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era by Boston Women’s Health Collective, published by Touchstone [Buy]
    An excellent introduction to sexuality for women and girls, and discusses physical as well as behavioral aspects of sex.
  • Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships by Ruth Bell [Buy]
    This book, from the original authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves, provides information on the physical and emotional aspects of puberty, sexuality, healthcare, sexually transmitted diseases, safer sex and birth control, living with violence, mental health, and eating disorders.

Q: What days of the month can a woman get pregnant?

A: There are days a woman can get pregnant and days when she can’t. Figuring out those days is the tricky part. One of the most common ways people try to figure out “safe” and “fertile” days is called the rhythm method. Because of the guesswork involved the rhythm method can be complicated and is prone to error.

The first day of your period is called Day 1. You then count all the days till you get your period again. The total number of those days is the length of your menstrual cycle. Fourteen days after you ovulate (when an egg is ready to meet the sperm) you get your period. That means if you ovulate on Day 20, your cycle will be 34 days total (20 + 14). Or, if you ovulate on Day 8, you’re cycle will be 22 days long.

You could assume that because your cycles are usually 28 days that you ovulate on Day 14 (28 minus 14) of your period. But how do you know you are going to ovulate on day 14 of this cycle? The truth is, you don’t. Your next cycle may only be 18 days. This means you are going to ovulate on Day 4 (18 minus 14). Because sperm live for about five days, and are viable (strong enough to possibly make you pregnant) for about three days, this means that if you have sex on your period you could get pregnant. Or your cycle may be 35 days this time. This means on Day 21, when you think the egg is no longer going to be around, it’s actually ripe and ready to get fertilized and make you pregnant!

The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is the best way to know when you are ovulating and when you aren’t. The Fertility Awareness Handbook is a great place to start learning how to use this method. It may be a little confusing to understand right away, which is why Planned Parenthood teaches classes on FAM. It takes a big commitment and being (or becoming) very comfortable with your body. It involves taking your temperature every morning before you get up, checking your cervical mucus twice a day, and keeping track of these findings on a chart. If this sounds like something you would like to do (it’s a great way to find out more about your body) contact your local Planned Parenthood for a FAM class.

Otherwise, stick with using birth control every time you have intercourse. Unless, of course, you want to have a baby!

For more information:

  • Fertility Awareness Handbook by Barbara Kass-Annese [Buy]
    A book describing the Fertility Awareness Method of determining whether or not you are fertile, so that you can either avoid, or increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Q: I am definitely pregnant, now what?

A: If you have taken a pregnancy test and it is positive or if you have visited a doctor and have been told you are pregnant, you have several options:

  • raising the baby – you may choose to give birth to and raise the child yourself.
    • If you need support for raising the baby yourself, contact the US Department of Health and Human Services at (800) 311-2229
    • If you need help finding a doctor, contact WIC.
    • If you need help with health insurance, check if you are eligible for Medicare here.
  • adoption – you may choose to place the child for adoption to be raised by someone else.
  • abortion – depending on how far along you are, your age, and where you’re located, you may be able to get an abortion. This is a termination of the pregnancy.